Trained to take action

1/29/2013

Secretary's quick thinking saves choking boy.

Secretary's quick thinking saves choking boy.

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

After last Thursday, John Lucas Jr. has sworn off cauliflower.

It was a piece of the little white vegetable that got stuck in the 8-year-old's throat during lunch at Georgia Matthews Elementary School. Cynthia Klaus, school secretary, who also helps with lunches, noticed the second-grader coughing and choking.

"I heard him coughing, and someone said he was choking, so I did the Heimlich maneuver. And then he sat down and started coughing, and finally spit up the cauliflower," Klaus said.

After the incident, both Klaus and John Jr. were emotional.

"I just hugged her. I couldn't talk. I was too scared," John Jr. said.

"It hit me after it was over that it was a pretty serious deal. I was a bit shaky, but I knew when he coughed it up, he was fine," Klaus said.

Klaus had learned the Heimlich maneuver during a CPR class. She said she took the class because she figured it would be a good thing to know.

"It was just something I did at the time," she said.

After the incident, the school's principal, Carma Harman, gave her a fake sleeve tattoo for "strong-arming" the situation. She also got a certificate for her efforts.

In addition to the school staff being relieved after Klaus' quick actions, the family of John Jr. was thankful, too.

"I'm so grateful for that lady. Johnny is my pride and joy. I want everyone to know what a great person you are for what you did. You saved my baby," Char Krueger, John Jr.'s grandmother, said to Klaus.

Krueger said Klaus was fast-acting.

"I'm so grateful she had the presence of mind and the skill to help him out and give him the Heimlich maneuver," she said.

John Jr.'s father, John Lucas, also was thankful.

"I just thank God that (Cynthia) was there. She saw what happened and basically saved his life," he said.

After the incident, school staff called Lucas to tell him what had happened.

"When you get the phone call that starts with 'He's OK,' you know something serious happened. Then he got on the phone with me and I could hear him crying, so I knew he was OK. He was just scared," he said.

Lucas said he's in debt to Klaus.

"Johnny's probably the most precious thing in my life. She kept it that way. So that's pretty cool. I wish more people understood that just taking 15 to 20 minutes to learn the Heimlich really does save people's lives. You never know when someone needs you to do it for them," he said.

The Heimlich maneuver is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person's airway, or windpipe, becomes blocked by a piece of food or another object.

The Heimlich maneuver can be used safely on both adults and children, but most experts do not recommend it for infants less than 1 year old. You also can perform the maneuver on yourself.

The following are the steps for performing the Heimlich maneuver, according to the National Library of Medicine:

* For a conscious person who is sitting or standing, position yourself behind the person and reach your arms around his or her waist.

* Place your fist, thumb side in, just above the person's navel and grab the fist tightly with your other hand.

* Pull your fist abruptly upward and inward to increase airway pressure behind the obstructing object and force it from the windpipe.

* If the person is conscious and lying on his or her back, straddle the person facing the head. Push your grasped fist upward and inward in a maneuver similar to the one above.

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