While eating lunch at the Bradt Primary School cafeteria on Wednesday, second grader Theresa Nelson got a piece of potato skin stuck in her throat. She tried to call for help but no sound would come.
“I couldn’t breathe,” she recalled Friday. “I was really scared, and I wanted to yell but I couldn’t.”
Fortunately, second grader Everett Sowards, who was sitting at a nearby table, noticed Theresa was choking and needed help. He raised his hand and called out for “Mrs. Valdes,” an administrative aide working in the cafeteria.
“I raised my hand really high,” Everett said, retelling the story along with Theresa and their parents.
Even more fortunately, Ann Valdes, who has worked at Bradt for two years and for six years in Mohonasen, learned choking first aid at a Red Cross training for a previous job years ago. Even though she couldn’t remember when she got the training, she did know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a child when she rushed over to Theresa, who was turning red and was slumped over, clearly choking.
Valdes leaned down to provide an inward and upward pressure beneath Theresa’s ribcage. Not as hard as you would with an adult, Valdes said. Theresa said she remembered seeing a bit of her lunch land on the floor.
“When she started crying, I knew she was good,” Valdes said.
Valdes – who noted the Red Cross training “comes in handy” – applauded Everett’s quick thinking and Theresa’s quick rebound and courage.
“Without Everett it wouldn’t happen, we were like a team,” Valdes said. “I told him he was a superstar.”
When Everett’s dad, Zack, picked him up from school later that day, Valdes opened the door with something to say. His first thought was Everett had been acting up in class.
“I was happy he realized someone needed help,” he said. “He knew to get someone help.”
Everett said he had once choked on a chip before his mom helped him out and that he was happy to be able to help Theresa.
“I felt good because I helped,” Everett said.
He also got a little career preparation after a series of TV news interviews. (The district invited the media to Bradt on Friday to highlight Wednesday’s heroics and the importance of choking safety.)
“When I grow up I want to be a Youttuber,” Everett said, explaining dreams of a channel where he plays video games and goes outside too.
Toni Nelson, Theresa’s mom, said she was scared and relieved after she heard about Theresa’s choking incident. By the time Toni got the news, she said, Theresa appeared ready to move on. Theresa had calmed down and passed on a chance to speak with mom on the phone.
“The nurse said she wanted to go back and eat her fries,” Toni said.