Life-saving teacher in 'right place, right time'

Woman has performed the Heimlich maneuver three times in 29-year teaching career.
TNS Regional News
Mar 3, 2014

 

In Linda Ward’s world, as an elementary school math teacher, things are black and white.

Two plus two equals four.

That was the answer when she began her teaching career 29 years ago, and it’s the answer today, regardless of what version of math a student uses.

But there is no way to figure out how — or why — Ward has performed the Heimlich maneuver three times, the most recent last week at Wildwood Elementary School in Middletown. Ward, who has taught in Middletown for 17 years, was in her classroom eating lunch with several fifth-grade students during math intervention.

They call it the “Lunch Bunch.”

Maybe they should change the name to “Heimlich Hour.”

Right there in the middle of lunch, one of the students screamed, “He’s choking! He’s choking!”

Ward jumped out from behind her desk, and saw one of the boys in her class standing motionless in the back of the room. His arms were at his side, not around his neck at you might expect. Ward could tell something was wrong.

“I just knew,” she said.

She stood behind the boy, assured him everything was going to be OK, and performed several abdominal thrusts that sent a piece of salad fell to the floor. The tragedy was averted just that quick.

“Seconds,” Ward said. “I said, ‘Are you OK? Can you talk to me now?’”

A few minutes later, when lunch period ended and her classroom emptied, Ward melted into her chair and thought about the events that transpired. It was hard not to envision different scenarios.

“I took a deep breath,” she said. “There was a huge sense of relief.”

The boy was examined by the school nurse, then picked up by his parents and taken to their family physician where another piece of salad was found in his throat. When the boy’s mother was called by the school and told what happened, she was “extremely grateful” the incident occurred in a classroom and not the louder and more crowded cafeteria.

Then, she said, there was “overwhelming relief” as tears filled her eyes.

That makes Ward a hero, right?

OK, stop nodding your head.

“I just did what I needed to do,” she said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”

This was the third time Ward has performed the Heimlich. Her son, then a toddler, was choking years ago, and she also performed the maneuver on another male student at a different school.

If you’re afraid of choking, you may want to sit next to Linda Ward.

She credits the medical training she has received from the district. Every year, teachers and staff are instructed how to perform the Heimlich on a mannequin called “Choking Charlie.” It’s a session some may consider a waste, like those who hate paying for home insurance until they’re a house fire. How many times does anyone use the Heimlich?

“It’s one of those things that you hope you never need,” she said.

Or in her case, it’s one of those things you may need three times.

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By Rick McCrabb - Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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