How to save a life: Help someone who is choking

AKRON, Ohio-- Becky Feora at King Community Learning Center in Akron has been a third-grade teacher for decades. Griffin Starcher, 11, had Mrs. Feora when he was in third grade and she was one of his favorite teachers. But the two never thought they would face more than third-grade reading and math together.

One day after school, Griffin was in Mrs. Feora’s classroom working on math. “He was complaining that his throat was kind of scratchy and sore and so I just gave him a mint,” Feora explained.

But moments later, Griffin stood up with a look of panic on his face.

“I was sitting at that computer right there playing some games and it just slipped right down my throat and then I stopped breathing so I stood right up and started holding my neck,” Griffin said.

Feora quickly realized that Griffin was choking on the mint, and she was the only person nearby.

“I asked him if he could breathe and he shook his head no, so I walked over to him and actually just started doing the Heimlich maneuver,” she said.

The first time nothing happened. But then she tried it again and the mint popped out of Griffin’s mouth. They were both stunned and relieved. Feora says she didn’t even realize she still knew how to do the Heimlich maneuver since she learned it in high school.

“When I think about my job as an educator I think of teaching them math and reading and science and social studies. I don’t ever really, it’s not in the forefront of my mind to think that someday I’m actually going to have to save a life,” Feora said.

The Heimlich takes only about 30 minutes to learn so FOX 8 went to the Akron Fire and EMS Training Center to learn how to do it.

“We train people every day, from high school students all the way to senior citizens,” explained Lt. Joe Shumaker.

Shumaker says if someone is really choking they will likely be holding their neck, and will not be able to breathe. If they are coughing then do not do the Heimlich, just encourage them to cough up whatever is stuck in their throat.

Shumaker says first, call 911. Then step between the legs of the person who is choking so that you have control. Make a fist with one hand and grab that fist with the other hand.

Then place your hands on their belly and give a forceful jab inward and upward. Keep making the motion until the person can breathe again or until help arrives.

If a baby under one year old is choking there is a different method. First, call 911.

“Flip them over onto your left hand, have the head a little bit lower than the rest of the body and you’ll do five forceful blows with the heel of your hand,” Shumaker said.

The blows should be forceful and to the baby’s upper back. After five blows, flip the baby over and check to see if there is anything in the mouth or that you can see.

“If not, you don’t stick your adult-sized fingers in the infant's airway,” Shumaker explains.

Continue that sequence until the object comes out or until help arrives. Shumaker says the forceful motions are the only thing that will help them breathe again.

“Can you cause some injury? Can you break a bone? Can you crack a rib? Perhaps, but in the end the child will be breathing which is what we want as a result,” he said.

Feora says she couldn’t be more glad that she learned the Heimlich and that it came back to her when she needed it most.

“Something as simple as that piece of candy became life-threatening,” she said. “I would encourage anybody to brush up on those life-saving techniques because you never know you might need it today, tomorrow, next week, anytime,” she said.

editor note: This information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.The information above is based on experts in the medical/emergency medical field..