Pupil saves schoolmate with Heimlich maneuver Girl, 10, learned procedure in class

December 24, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Every evening Maria Cokley asks her daughter, Triana, what she did at school. Last Monday she got an unexpected response.

"I saved someone's life today," 10-year-old Triana said.

Then the fifth-grader at Bryant Woods Elementary in Columbia calmly explained to her incredulous mother that she had performed the Heimlich maneuver on Noemi Rivera, a 10-year-old friend who was choking on a jawbreaker candy.

"It didn't really hit me until the next day," Ms. Cokley said. "This girl could have died, and I was so proud of Triana for keeping her head."

The rescue occurred when Triana and a group of students were walking home from school. She saw Noemi's older sister hitting her on the back and screaming.

When Triana and her friends ran over they saw that Noemi's face was red and tears were coming from her eyes.

Triana grabbed Noemi from behind and attempted the Heimlich maneuver. Another friend, LaToya Moore, helped by telling Triana where to position her hands.

After a few pushes below Noemi's sternum, the candy popped out.

Triana had learned the Heimlich maneuver in a health class at school in October, although she didn't think she'd have to use it so soon.

"I was kind of scared because I didn't want her to die," said Triana. "But when I saw her choking, I was like 'I have to do something, I have to do something.' "

Noemi, a fourth-grader at Bryant Woods who came to Columbia from Puerto Rico last summer, said she's not going to be eating anymore jawbreaker candy.

Rosa Torres, Noemi's mother, found out about the choking incident from her older daughter. Noemi's brother had given her the candy and it became lodged in her throat.

"I almost had a heart attack," said Ms. Torres. "I went over to Triana's house and I was so grateful to her."

To recognize Triana's quick-thinking under pressure, Bryant Woods held a ceremony and presented Triana with a gold star.

"Afterward, the two girls [Triana and Noemi] went off together and said something to each other and then they both started crying," said Wendy Crystal, the school nurse who taught Triana the Heimlich maneuver.

In her health class, Ms. Crystal showed the students a video that included examples of children saving adults by performing the lifesaving technique.

"It enabled them to feel that they have the power to help, too," she said.

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