Last month, a student in the Brockett Elementary cafeteria began choking on a taco shell. His classmate noticed he was in distress and alerted their teacher, Kristie Sanders.
“I could tell he wasn’t moving air,” Sanders said. “That’s when I immediately went into action.”
Sanders found the choking student, performed the Heimlich maneuver and then flipped him upside down in an effort to clear his throat.
“I’ve learned that if you turn children over – I have three children of my own – that if you turn them over, gravity usually works,” she said.
Though the taco shell wasn’t expelled, Sanders could tell her student’s airway had been cleared. The school nurse arrived shortly after to check his oxygen levels and to listen to his chest to make sure that he was breathing well.
Her students are very close, Sanders said. Because they were worried, the school made it a point to have the recovered student stop by the classroom before heading home with his mother. Letters were also sent home so parents would be aware of what happened.
Superintendent David Belding shared the story at the district’s monthly school board meeting. The Aubrey Independent School District recognized Sanders and her student, Jose Gutierrez, for acting quickly to save a life.
“He’s a very brave boy,” Sanders said. “He knew exactly what he needed to do to help his friend.”
The incident could have ended very differently if Gutierrez hadn’t been paying attention and if he didn’t speak up, Brockett Elementary Principal Kari Abrams said.
“I’m just super proud of both of them,” she said.
Last summer, Sanders opted in for CPR and Heimlich maneuver training online provided by the school district. She has been at Brockett Elementary for 10 years and has been teaching for 19. This was her second time in her career responding to a choking student. About 13 years ago, the culprit food item was a hot dog. She performed the Heimlich, and that student also recovered.
“I love my students,” Sanders said. “I would do anything to keep them safe. I tell them that all the time.”
Abrams said she is thankful for Sanders’ training and experience. The recovered student’s parents are very grateful as well, she said. The incident has also led to change.
“We won’t be serving taco shells to kindergarteners or first graders from now on,” Abrams said. “Our sweet lunch ladies made that decision.”