Surviving a medical emergency requires getting immediate help as every second counts.
An eighth grader at Allen Park Middle School was fortunate that his assistant principal was nearby during a recent incident when he suddenly began choking on a piece of food.
Bruce Andrews recalls that everything was normal during the third lunch period at 12:05 p.m. on April 20, as he found himself in a familiar spot on a small stage in the school cafeteria, about 10 inches above the floor level, an area he referred to as his “command center” where he directs tables of students to go to the lunch line.
As the athletic director, Andrews often talks about sports during the lunch periods, or plays music as students unwind before heading back to their classes. With approximately 300 students during each lunch period, that’s a lot of preteens to oversee, but when something goes amiss, he’s on top of the situation.
At no time was his presence more crucial than on that day.
At the beginning of the lunch period, a student ran up to Andrews and told him that his friend was choking.
“Typically, I know where he sits,” Andrews said about the boy. “He was sticking his finger down his throat, trying to vomit. He walked toward me and I could see he was turning blue.”
Andrews said he ran to the edge of the stage, where the young man turned around so his back was facing him. Andrews then proceeded to perform chest thrusts on the choking student, administering three or four thrusts until the obstruction — a piece of banana — became dislodged.
Andrews has been an educator for almost 32 years, most of that time with Allen Park Public Schools. During that time, he and other administrators and teachers have trained for medical emergencies such as the one he had just faced. He said he hoped he would never have to put that training into practice, but when the situation arose, his natural instincts took over.
As for the student, Andrews said it was instant relief as soon as the obstruction was cleared. The school contacted his mother to inform her of the incident, but Andrews said her son had already sent her a text message letting her know what happened and to tell her he was OK.
To Andrews’ knowledge, he said the student went about his day as normal after the incident, despite the scare he experienced when he found himself unable to breathe.
Sometimes it takes a while for a life-threatening situation to sink in, both for the victim and the person who administered aid.
“When I got home, it really hit me,” Andrews said. “I hoped that I didn’t hurt his ribs.”
He said he was glad that this didn’t appear to be the case, but even if it had, it sure beats the alternative.