Battle Ground teacher saves choking boy

Captain Strong educator uses Heimlich maneuver on kindergartner

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 

Lifesaving classes

What: First aid/CPR classes

Where: American Red Cross

Phone: 360-693-5821

Web: redcross.org/take-a-class

Cost: $70 for pediatric first aid/CPR; $85 for adults first aid/CPR

BATTLE GROUND — Painted in a hallway just steps from Toni Brammer's kindergarten classroom at Captain Strong Primary are these words: "If it is to be, it's up to me."

The 10-year teaching veteran put those words into action Wednesday when she performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved the life of one of her kindergartners, Hunter Schofield, 6.

At the beginning of their math lesson, the students were munching on fruit snacks. The class is one of the all-day kindergarten classes in the Battle Ground district, and the kids get hungry by the time math begins. Brammer was sitting on a stool at the front of her class when Hunter approached her.

Thursday, when Hunter re-enacted the incident, he said, "I choked on half a piece of fruit snack."

He patted himself on the back to show how he explained to his teacher that he was choking.

"His face was extremely red. It was like he was trying to speak, but he could only make a grunting sound," Brammer said. "I knew from the sheer look of terror on his face that something was wrong. I asked him, 'Are you choking?' and he nodded yes. I spun him around and did the Heimlich maneuver. Out popped the fruit snack."

After Brammer was sure Hunter was OK, she asked her teacher's aide, Anne Lester, to take him to the school nurse, who checked Hunter and sent him back to his relieved teacher and classmates.

Brammer turned her class over to her team teacher for five minutes to compose herself.

"Emotions kicked in and adrenaline took over," Brammer said. "I was shaken up and on the verge of tears."

Looking back, "It really just was instinct," Brammer said Thursday. "It happened so fast. We love Hunter. He's a sweet kid."

Hunter lives just a few blocks from school with his mother and father, Jennafer and Jamie Schofield, and 5-year-old brother, Carter, who will start kindergarten this fall.

"I'm glad Hunter knew to go to her instead of staying in his seat. I'm glad she didn't panic and went right into adrenaline mode," Jennafer Schofield said. "She was Hunter's guardian angel. Without her, he may not be here today. God was with us yesterday for sure."

On Thursday, Hunter said, "I gave her a present. An angel and some flowers."

The potted pink hydrangea was to plant in her yard.

"For years to come, it can remind her of how appreciative we are," Schofield said.

Brammer said she had never administered the Heimlich maneuver, except when she practiced it in a CPR class at school a few years ago.

"Any teacher would have done the right thing. That's a teacher's first job," Brammer said.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools; susan.parrish@columbian.com.