Good friends Max H. and James M. don’t usually get to eat lunch together at Fletcher Elementary, since the 4th-graders are on different lunch schedules. But on Monday, Oct. 24, Max was by James’ side for taco salad day – and a critical moment.
As the two were eating in the cafeteria, James began to choke on a piece of salad.
“All I could feel was the sides of my throat,” James said. “It hurt.”
Max, whose good behavior in class had earned him the chance to eat lunch with a friend from another class, could tell something was wrong.
“(James) just stood up and started holding onto his chest,” Max said. “He wasn’t coughing or talking or anything.”
“(Max) asked me if I was OK and I shook my head no,” James recalled.
Max said he recognized the signs of choking, and ran to get Emily Christopher, a 4th grade teacher certified in First Aid, who just happened to be on cafeteria duty that day.
“I could tell that he wasn’t able to breathe,” said Christopher.
She performed the Heimlich maneuver, and after three or four abdominal thrusts, the piece of food dislodged from James’ throat.
“Afterwards I was shaking because I realized what had just happened,” Christopher said. Though she’d practiced the Heimlich before, Christopher said, “I’ve never had to really do it.”
That’s why, she said, “It’s good to have your CPR and First Aid is up to date, especially if you work with children.”
“We were just so grateful that she was there and acted so quickly,” said James’ mother, Robin. “We’re just eternally grateful.”
“I just did what anyone would have done,” said Christopher.
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer