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Students’ lives saved from choking using Heimlich maneuver


Special to the Leader-Press


Williams/Ledger Elementary third grader Beau Garcia stopped where he was in the cafeteria almost as if he was frozen. He began gasping for air and tried to call for help. That is when classmate Noah Sullivan jumped into action.

“I noticed that Beau seemed upset and then I heard him call for help,” Sullivan said. “I could tell he was choking, so I just went over and started helping him. I saw how to do that Heimlich Maneuver on a video and knew what to do.”

After a few thrusts, the grape that Sullivan was choking on dislodged and he was able to breathe again.

“It was a little bit scary,” Garcia said. “I am just so glad Noah helped me."

Sullivan also credited attending church with helping him know to take immediate action.

"I didn't have to think about it. I heard Beau call for help and I just knew what to do,” Sullivan said. “I told my grandma when she picked me up and she said I was a hero and I know my dad was impressed too. That makes me feel pretty good."

This is not the first student’s life that has been saved this school year at Williams/Ledger Elementary. Music teacher Jonathan Owens also used the Heimlich Maneuver after noticing a fourth grader Kason Gilseth was in distress and nearby students called for help.

“I knew immediately the student was choking and acted instinctively. I was able to able to perform abdominal thrusts and dislodge the piece of the toy he was choking on,” Owens said. “I made sure Kason was ok and then called the school nurse, Marcy Moreno, to come and help. I followed up by contacting the parents and explaining what happened and inquiring about how Kason was feeling.”

Owen is certified in safety/first aid/CPR through the American Red Cross. Additionally, all CCISD staff members are required to complete more than 30 individual training modules, including a unit on choking hazards, at the start of every school year.

"I am just so grateful I was in the classroom because I had the training and knew instinctively what to do. I didn't have to think,” Owens said. “The what-ifs came later after the crisis was over. It's amazing how quickly things can change."

Hettie Halstead Elementary Custodian Amayris Casanova Muniz also saved a student’s life this year by utilizing the Heimlich Maneuver. She was cleaning tables when second grader Adrian Vargas choked on some food. She immediately picked the child up, gave three hard thrusts below the ribcage, dislodged the food, and opened Vargas’ breathing pathway.

Choking is in fact the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Abdominal thrusts used during the Heimlich Maneuver lift the diaphragm and expel air from the lungs. This causes the foreign object to be expelled from the person’s airway. Most children and adults choke when swallowing food without chewing properly or when laughing while eating or drinking.

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