ELIZABETHTOWN - The quick thinking and decisive action of an Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School teacher is being credited for saving the life of a choking sixth-grade student Feb. 25.
English teacher Sarah Rice rushed to the aid of the student, Chas Morgan, and performed the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge food in the boy's throat.
Rice was recognized for her actions during the regularly scheduled April meeting of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Monday and received praise from county officials as well as the boy's mother, Alice Morgan.
Alice said while Rice has remained humble about the role she played in helping save her son, she remains a "hero" in her eyes.
"Thank God she was in the right place at the right time," Morgan said.
Chas said the entire ordeal was very scary. He said the food - a whole chicken nugget - slipped down his throat as he was trying to remove a rubber band from his braces to chew.
As Chas became distraught, cafeteria supervisors Jodi Thompson, Brad Shrauf and Rice sprang into action. Thompson ran for the school nurse, while Rice and Shrauf attended to Chas.
Recalling the technique in which a person stands behind a victim and administers a series of quick upward thrusts just below the abdomen, Rice administered the Heimlich maneuver and the food popped out "like a cork being popped off a champagne bottle."
While Rice has had no formal first aid training, she said she learned the technique from a poster the state mandates be displayed in all public eating facilities.
"I understand how it worked," Rice said. "It is a fairly simple procedure that everyone should know how to perform."
In fact, Rice said it might be a good idea for all school faculty to be trained in simple life-saving techniques, such as the Heimlich maneuver.
In the meantime, Rice said she was just glad to be able to help.
"I will probably be on cafeteria duty for the rest of my time at ELCS," she said, with a quick laugh.
While the ordeal was a bit harrowing for Chas and his fellow students around him, he said the worst part was having to miss lunch.
"The only thing I got to eat that day was two pieces of toast and a Gatorade," Chas said with a smile.