Quick action saves choking Jefferson child

PLYMOUTH — Jefferson Elementary Head Cook Judi Martin has a new appreciation for the CPR training that the Plymouth Schools required her and others to take.
In early March, a cafeteria monitor at Jefferson rushed into the kitchen and told Martin she was needed immediately in the lunch room.
Martin said she quickly saw a third grader holding her throat and not breathing very well.
“When I stood her up, she was already a little limp,” Martin said. “I told her I was going to push on her tummy a little.”
Using the Heimlich maneuver, Martin was able to get a tortilla chip that was stuck in the child’s throat out.
“It took two tries, but she started breathing right away then,” Martin said.
Those performing the Heimlich maneuver stand behind a choking victim and use squeeze-thrusts to expel the air from the diaphragm and force the victim to cough.
Lunch that day was “Nacho Ranchero” made by layering ground meat and cheese on a tortilla chip. Although it’s not known how the youngster actually got the food stuck in her throat, Martin said it’s not unusual for kids to either talk while they are eating or forget to chew their food up well.
“I’m really glad I didn’t panic,” she said. “You could have heard a pin drop in the cafeteria. The kids were really relieved when their friend started breathing.”
Martin said she has taken numerous safety training sessions in her 24 years working at the Plymouth Country Club and 30 years (25 at Jefferson) in the Plymouth Schools.
“The training for the school was mandatory and I’m really glad I took it last August just before school started,” she said.
Martin explained she knew just what the child was feeling. In the past, Martin had to use a self-imposed Heimlich on herself. She said she was eating steak and a piece stuck in her throat: “I had to throw myself against my kitchen counter to get it out.”
Plymouth Schools Food Service Director Gloria Burnham said she is glad that her staff takes the CPR training.
“It used to be every 10 years and now, it is every two years,” she said. “The way they teach us what to do in an emergency changes each time.”
She added, “If you take the training, in an emergency you just stop and think, and tell yourself, ‘You can do it.’”
Superintendent Dan Tyree said all the bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria staff and at least one coach on every team is trained in CPR.
“You really can’t put value on training,” he said. “It only has to save one to be worth it.”