GLENS FALLS - Last week, 6-year-old Owen Harrington had a scare when eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes at Jackson Heights Elementary School.
“I choked on a piece of cereal,” he said. “It went down the wrong way.”
Although the first-grader couldn’t talk, he said he got up and found teacher aide Kathy Holser. He pointed at his throat to indicate that he was choking.
“She gave me the Heimlich (maneuver),” he said mimicking the squeezing motion around his body.
Owen then coughed up the food.
“It was scary,” he said.
Holser, who has been with the district more than eight years, said she felt a tugging on the back of her shirt. When she turned around, it was Owen with tears in his eyes.
She asked him if he was choking and he nodded.
Two other aides, Marcia Fitzgerald and Deena Landon, went to get the nurse, according to information provided by the district.
Holser said her son is a lifeguard so she knew the proper emergency procedures.
“I knew you need to go between the naval and the breastbone. People think it’s the stomach, but it’s not — it’s up higher,” she said in an email. “I found where his breastbone was, made a fist with the thumb side toward the body, and popped up and in.”
Since Owen was facing the garbage can, she couldn’t see the food come out, but she heard him cough and knew he was all right.
The incident happened a week ago Friday. About 60 students participate in the breakfast program, according to Principal Carrie Mauro.
The school named Holser its “Hero of the Day.”
“She’s a wonderful aide. She has an incredible attention to detail in her day-to-day job and I think that carries over into her life,” Mauro said.
Voluntary CPR training is offered to the staff, according to Mauro.
“It’s a skill you should have in your repertoire,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know how to react.”
Holser said she just reacted by instinct.
“I think the real hero here is Owen, because he didn’t panic. He didn’t stay at the table. He didn’t wait for someone to come to him. He stayed calm enough to get to an adult,” she said.
Owen’s father came to take him to the doctor. He is fine and has resumed his interests of writing and playing with Legos. And he actually likes homework.
When asked by a reporter how he was feeling, Owen gave two thumbs up.