BEND, OR -- A Jewell Elementary teacher saved the life of a student, last week, after the child choked during class. It was the beginning of the day and second grader Elisa was eating a gummy snack during Thursday's attendance. A classmate accused her of chewing gum and Elisa tried to quickly swallow, but began choking. Penny Watkins says she noticed the girl putting her hands around her neck and immediately began the Heimlich Maneuver. It took several thrusts before the food was dislodged and afterward, Watkins says, the normally outgoing Elisa was silent for more than an hour, "It scared her. She was scared and afterward, she did look at me and said, 'I thought I was going to die.' It was a little bit of trauma. And then, she was fine." Her mom later picked her up from school to recover at home, although she returned that night for an art fair.
Watkins says she turned the incident into an object lesson for her class, "The outcome was wonderful, and the kids in my classroom, they were very fascinated with, 'How do you know to do that?' and 'How do you learn to do that?' And then they asked questions like, 'What would you do if no one's around and that's happening?' and I was able to show them how they could use a chair to maybe help themselves."
According to Watkins, this is the second time she's employed the Heimlich Maneuver on a student during her 20-year teaching career, and she says she always keeps her emergency training up-to-date. Some call Watkins a hero, but it's a title she's not sure she deserves, "I was just doing what anyone would do, if they saw that happening. But, I'm glad I have the training. I mean, that's really important. I mean, everyone should know how to do it, because you just don't know when that can happen." She tells KBND News, "At the time, you don't realize that you have saved a life. Like, if someone hadn't been there to do that, it could have had a very different outcome."