Battle Ground school staff help second choking child in 16 days

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter



For the second time in 16 days, a Battle Ground Public Schools teacher has used abdominal thrusts to save a choking student.

Pam Judd, a seventh-grade teacher at Tukes Valley Middle School, administered the abdominal thrust, also known as the Heimlich maneuver, on seventh-grade student Anthony Achurra, who was choking on a piece of candy on May 2.

“I’ve been teaching almost 30 years, and I’ve never had a situation like this when a student has been choking,” Pam Judd said. “He made the choking signal and said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ I realized we had a very serious situation.”

After sending another student to summon the school nurse, Judd performed two abdominal thrusts, a technique she had learned as a lifeguard 35 years earlier. She had never performed the lifesaving move outside her training before.

“I heard him breathe, but the candy still did not come out,” Judd said.

By this time, Jeanine Cassell, the school nurse, arrived on the scene. Achurra already was breathing and talking.

“Two seconds later, he vomited the hard candy into the trash can,” Cassell said.

She took him to the school’s health room, determined he was OK and phoned his parents. Achurra and his parents decided that he should return to class after some rest.

Cassell has been a school nurse for seven years, but this is the first time she’s had been involved with a choking incident.

“I felt really fortunate that it worked,” Judd said. “He said to me twice: ‘You saved my life.’ I don’t feel like a hero. … I don’t really know. It’s one of those situations where time stands still.”

On April 24, Toni Brammer, a kindergarten teacher at Captain Strong Primary School, performed an abdominal thrust to dislodge a fruit snack from a choking kindergarten student.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515;;

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