Arcola Elementary School Staff Saves Choking Child

Arcola Elementary School Staff Saves Choking Child

Quick thinking praised for ‘saving boy’s life’

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Arcola Elementary School

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Two staff members at Arcola Elementary School are being credited with saving a choking student’s life.

Special education paraeducator Yanette Bravo said she heard students calling for help on Tuesday as a 9-year-old boy choked on his lunch. Bravo, a seven-year employee at Arcola, rushed to the table and immediately began the Heimlich maneuver — a first-aid procedure used when a person is choking.

With the help of the school’s health technician, Milagros Gastanaga, she was able to dislodge the food. Students were eating hamburgers for lunch.

Emergency responders arrived shortly after and took the student to the hospital as a precaution, according to Arcola Principal Emmanuel Jean-Philippe. The student returned to school on Wednesday.

“I see this as another example of the great people we have working with our children,” Jean-Philippe said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “The compassion and love I saw while they supported the student … was superb and amazing. There truly are heroes working at Arcola as well as across MCPS.”

In a message sent to Arcola families Tuesday, Jean-Philippe said the quick actions of Bravo and Gastanaga saved the boy’s life.

Bravo said she has known how to do the Heimlich maneuver for several years. She learned the technique in her home country of Peru and received yearly training while previously working at a day care.

“I feel happy I was ready to help the student and everything is well,” Bravo said. “It’s a scary situation, but we have to think and do what is the best for the students.”

The school’s counseling team met with students who witnessed the incident on Tuesday to answer questions, Jean-Philippe said.

The school system does not keep data on choking incidents on school property, a spokesman said.

In May, a security guard at White Oak Middle School also performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking child. That child also was OK and returned to school the next day.

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