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Student saves choking friend

Uses Heimlich Maneuver to dislodge obstruction

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 10:35 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 24, 2013 5:44 p.m. CDT

It was a normal day of lunch at Nettle Creek School Thursday , until Josh Skrapits noticed his friend had grown quiet.

The friend was silent and his face was red.

“I was like, ‘What’s wrong, are you OK?’ He just shook his head,” Skrapits said.

That’s when the eighth grader realized his friend was choking.

In health class, they had learned how to do the Heimlich Maneuver, the emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a piece of food blocks a person’s windpipe.

But Skrapits said he had learned it before then. Years earlier, he said, he’d performed it on his younger brother, who’d been choking on a piece of broccoli.

So when he noticed his friend choking Thursday, Skrapits acted on instinct. He jumped up and began performing the Heimlich on him.

Eighth grader Matt Jurek, who was also at the table, sprung up to tell a lunch monitor what was happening.

Eighth grader Taggert Tesdal, also at the table, stood and yelled instructions to his friend, Josh.

Before an adult arrived to help, the piece of ham sandwich had dislodged from the student’s throat. Skrapits had saved the day.

“You don’t really think in that situation,” Skrapits said. “You don’t think about what could happen, you think about what’s happening now.”

The whole thing, Jurek said, was over in about 20 or 30 seconds.

“[Josh] acted on instinct,” Tesdal said.

The student who choked was fine and back in class after the incident, according to Dr. Donald McKinney, superintendent of Nettle Creek Community Consolidated School District 24C.

McKinney said the student who choked was happy he had a classmate nearby who knew what to do in the emergency situation.

Skrapits received a box of Twizzlers as a reward for his quick action. He, Jurek and Tesdal shared the snack.

McKinney said that Skrapits proved himself a hero Thursday, and the superintendent commended Jurek and Tesdal for their part in preventing a possible tragedy.

“It makes me very proud that one of our students stepped up and took control of the situation,” McKinney said. “It’s a pretty incredible instinct for an eighth grader to have.”

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