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‘It’s good to save a friend’s life’

Eighth-grader uses Heimlich maneuver on choking classmate


A recent emergency response training, during which Lee Middle School students learned the Heimlich maneuver, paid off when an eighth-grader saved the life of another who was choking.

Shortly after lunch in early May, Arturo Fierros-Cervantes noticed his friend Edgar Vazquez was bent over in the hallway and not breathing. Edgar was choking on a piece of bread for about 30 seconds when Arturo took action, using what he had learned during training to dislodge the food.

“I was I scared I was going to die,” said Edgar, expressing his thanks to Arturo.

“I’m glad because he’s my friend,” Arturo said. “It’s good to save a friend’s life.”

In January and early February, 140 middle school students were trained in emergency response including CPR, response to choking and how to use an automatic external defibrillator, or AED. History teacher Michael Donovan requested the training, which was led by Kevin McGraw, head safety officer at Amway, who started the School Emergency Response Coalition.

Donovan said the incident between Arturo and Edgar happened so seamlessly that few people knew it happened.

“Arturo’s non-assuming personality and belief in doing the right thing without fanfare or recognition also played into the day, and both students went about their business,” Donovan said.

Edgar, however, mentioned it to the school liaison officer, Pam Keen, who let Donovan know about the incident.

“I hope no one ever needs to use the CPR training again, but statistics show that many of our students will use it at some point,” Donovan said. “We may never know the real impact this training had on others, but we know that at least one life may have been saved.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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