Fifth-grader rescues choking victim

Published: November 13, 2007 | 6837th good news item since 2003

Karla Sandoval sees lots of signs as she’s washing her hands in the kitchen at Fir Grove Elementary School, but only one may have saved Dinnin Fuller-LaDuke’s life.

Every day for a week, Karla, who’s 11 and in fifth grade, volunteered in the kitchen. Along with signs about germs, hygiene and appearance is a laminated poster about first aid for choking.

And Karla didn’t just help out in the kitchen. On Bus No. 16, she would pick up after other kids, and then she asked bus driver Julie Gifford if she could be the bus monitor.

She continued cleaning up and telling Gifford if kids were eating candy, that kind of thing.

Gifford tells kids not to eat candy on the bus, but on Oct. 25, 9-year-old Dinnin forgot. He ate a piece of hard candy.

“I forgot to chew it, and when the bus started to turn, it got caught in my throat,” he said. “I started to choke on it and people started telling the bus driver. I was coughing and I couldn’t really breathe.”

Karla was about five seats away from Dinnin. Another kid told her what was happening.

“I was trying to get the bus driver’s attention, but the bus was a little too loud,” Karla said.

Gifford is amazed at what happened next.

“She just calmly told me while I was driving that he was choking and that she couldn’t get him to breathe,” Gifford said.

Gifford asked Karla to stay with Dinnin until she could get the bus pulled over.

“By the time I got back there, the candy was going through the air,” Gifford said.

Karla decided she had to help Dinnin “because he’d been like that a little while,” she said. “In the lunchroom, I saw that poster of how to help if someone’s choking on food.”

She patted Dinnin on the back hard enough to send the candy flying. Dinnin said it didn’t hurt.

“He was pale white with a little tint of blue, and he was having trouble breathing,” Gifford said.

Gifford made sure Dinnin was breathing well before she let him off the bus. She also told him to say “thank you” to Karla.

And she wanted to make sure Karla got credit for taking care of Dinnin.

Gifford and the bus company, Durham School Services, made Karla a certificate, and Gifford also gave Karla a teddy bear.

Karla’s parents and her sister didn’t believe what had happened until she brought home the award, she said.

She also achieved the status of minor celebrity at Fir Grove.

She was featured on the school’s morning newscast, which is shown on TV screens in each classroom.

Afterward, people gave her high-fives and told her they were proud of her. A first-grader came up to Principal John Crouch, totally excited.

“I know Karla!” he said.

Published in Kids & Teens
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