Sydney Doyle & Abel Smith

Shippensburg Area Senior High School senior Sydney Doyle poses with Nancy Grayson 2nd grader Abel Smith. Doyle saved Abel from choking at lunch earlier this month.

Choking on food can be quite scary, especially when you can’t dislodge the particle on your own.

Nancy Grayson 2nd grader Abel Smith had an alarming situation during lunch earlier this month when a piece of his carrot got stuck in his throat. His best friend, Kayden Padua, noticed something was very wrong with Abel as his face began turning red. Kayden quickly raised his hand and began yelling to adults and lunchroom aides for assistance.

Shippensburg Area Senior High School senior Sydney Doyle was assisting in the cafeteria that day, and was across the room when the commotion broke out. When another teacher called out to her, Sydney made her way across the room. When she realized Abel was choking, her swift actions in performing the Heimlich helped to save Abel’s life.

“At first when I heard the yelling, I wasn’t sure what was going on because another teacher was already over there,” Sydney explained. “It was when the other teacher started yelling for me that I was worried. I realized that Abel was choking when I got to him, his face was red and he couldn’t speak to me, and he was crying and shaking. Once I realized that Abel was choking, I asked him If I could help him and when he nodded his head yes, I gave him the Heimlich. I learned how to do the Heimlich in 12th grade health class through a lesson and a video.”

Abel recalled the experience last week: “I was eating a carrot, and then it went down my throat. It was hot. It was scary. Kayden raised his hand, and Miss Sydney was able to do the Heimlich. I swallowed it when she did that. I’m happy that I got help. I thank Kayden because he raised his hand and yelled out. I thank Miss Sydney for helping me.”

Kayden recalled, “I got really scared when my friend began coughing, and then his face started turning really red. I began raising my hands and waving for help because I could tell that he was choking. I was very happy after Miss Sydney helped him because we are really good friends, and I knew he was going to be OK.”

Abel, the son of Amanda and Corey Smith, said he has eaten carrots since the incident, and is being more careful with chewing.

Amanda said she can’t thank Sydney, Kayden and the school staff for saving Abel’s life.

“I feel like thanking them isn’t enough! You saved my son’s life! I am very, very thankful for Kayden and Sydney! They’re definitely heroes, and I’m glad they’re getting the recognition they deserve.”

Amanda said she was impressed that a high school student knows how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. “I’m almost 30 and I don’t know how to do the Heimlich. I’m really glad they’re teaching that in school; it’s something that clearly comes in handy.”

Sydney said she has been working as a noontime aide in the Nancy Grayson cafeteria since the start of the school year, as part of a co-op program at the high school. She also assists in one of the kindergarten classrooms.

Jeremy Eastman, Nancy Grayson’s interim principal, said he was also impressed with the quick reaction of the staff and assistants.

“Kayden knew it was an emergency, and he acted to get someone’s attention,” Eastman said. “Everybody responded how they should. By the time the nurse was able to get there, everything had been taken care of. She looked him over to make sure he was alright and didn’t need further medical attention.”

Eastman added it’s important to pay attention during trainings that are offered to staff. He said school nurse Teresa O’Neal taught staff CPR and the Heimlich at their last training session.

“Taking time to do these trainings is extremely important because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Sydney was the youngest adult in the room, and she did not hesitate to react; she didn’t wait for someone with more experience to show up. She reacted. She paid attention to what she learned. This is one example of why it was important to hire noontime aides in the cafeteria so we had enough staff there. So, I am thankful that the school board decided to hire aides this year. It has really benefited our school.”

Sydney offers the following advice for anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation:

“The best advice that I could give to someone would probably be to remain calm because if you stress yourself out before you help the person choking, it will stress them out and things could end up being worse. It made me feel relieved initially because I was able to help him and things didn’t get worse. Currently, I would say I feel proud of myself for being able to help and not freeze up. Something very important for anyone to remember is to try not to freeze up in a situation such as this one because regardless of how scared you are, I guarantee that the person in need is more scared and you can do something to help them. You also have to think like, ‘What if that was my child? Even if you don’t have children, like what IF it was your child, you wouldn’t want someone to freeze up, you’d want someone to help your child and save their life.”

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