Substitute teacher saves Somers student from choking

Published: February 19, 2007 | 5618th good news item since 2003

Mabelle B. Avery Middle School art teacher Elizabeth Abbott has been in unsettling situations before, but none like what she encountered Wednesday Feb. 7 just as third period class ended.

One of her students, seventh-grader Brianna Damon, was talking to her friend while eating candy when suddenly the candy got stuck in her throat and she began choking.

Abbott, who had just recently completed training in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, quickly swung into action, ordering the other students to get the nurse as she began performing the Heimlich maneuver on Damon.

In a matter of a few moments, or what seemed like forever to Damon and Abbott, Abbott was able to dislodge the candy from Damon’s throat.

“It was scary. It was definitely scary,” Abbott said Monday as she recounted those harrowing moments.

Damon was scared, too.

“I could not stop thinking this thing is not going to come out,” Damon, 12, said Monday. “I really felt like I was passing out and fading away. Everything was blurry.”

In honor of Abbott’s heroics, the Board of Education called on Fire Chief William Meier Jr. to present Abbott with a Heart Saver Award at its meeting on Monday.

Abbott brought along her parents, grandfather, and fiancee to watch her receive the plaque. Damon and her parents were also in attendance.

“Thank you for your dedication to the students,” school board Chairwoman Terri Henderson told Abbott.

Abbott, who lives in Tolland, was hired about three months ago as a long-term substitute art teacher at the middle school.

“We are very proud of Beth,” middle school Principal Nancy Barry said at the meeting.

While school officials showed their appreciation, no one was more grateful to Abbot than Damon and her parents.

“She’s our hero,” said Damon’s mother, Barbara.

“I feel like it’s as if she actually gave me a second chance at life,” said Damon, who, the day after the incident, presented Abbott with two dozen purple tulips and a box of chocolates.

Abbott had just recently completed training in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver during a professional development day at the high school since she wants to get involved in coaching softball.

“I think every teacher should do that,” said Abbott, who received official certification for completing the training from the American Heart Association on Monday.

Damon, who now plans to go for similar training when she’s older, told Abbott, “You are a very special teacher.”

Published in Kids & Teens, Rescues, Teachers
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