by David Patterson and Pablo Ros | December 06, 2013
Greg Timmerman, a custodian at Greenhaven Elementary in Hibbing, Minn., was recently monitoring the cafeteria when he noticed something was wrong with one of the students waiting in line.
Standing by the garbage barrels as students cleaned off their trays after lunch, the AFSCME Local 480, Council 65 member spotted a first grader who appeared to be having some difficulty breathing.
“She looked like she was going to throw up,” Timmerman said. “I asked her if she was ok. She tried to speak but couldn’t so she shook her head no.”
Timmerman jumped into action, applying the Heimlich maneuver, though at first to no avail. “I got scared because the girl needed help, but I didn’t want to hurt her,” he said.
The second time it was successful. A grape lodged in the girl’s throat popped out.
This wasn’t Timmerman’s first time performing the Heimlich to save a student. Nor is Timmerman the only custodian in Hibbing who has done so.
Jim Jukich, a janitor at Washington Elementary School who is also a member of AFSCME Local 480, Council 65, has saved two children from choking.
“That’s why I’m in the cafeteria during lunch hours – in case there’s a problem,” Jukich said. “There’s lots of spills … but in case there’s emergencies – it’s good to be on hand.”
Although student choking incidents are rare, according to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, non-fatal occurrences are on the rise.
At the schools, students and teachers look up to Timmerman and Jukich for their quick action.
Since the latest incident, Timmerman now has a lifelong fan. “She comes up to me daily and asks if she can wipe a table, and then she tells me that I’m her hero,” he said of the student he helped. “I just need to know that she is happy and healthy.”
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