A real lifesaver: Assistant’s fast action saves student
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A John Sevier Elementary School teaching assistant responded to a “one-in-a-million” event this week, saving a young boy’s life in the process.
Linda Lambertucci noticed that first-grader Tristen Owens was hunched over a trash can on Tuesday afternoon.
“He was covering his mouth like he needed to throw up,” she said. “It’s not that uncommon for this time of the year, so I went to get a napkin for him. By the time that I back to him, I noticed that his lips were purple. I scooped him up, took him outside the door and started performing the Heimlich (maneuver) on him.”
ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher Markay Jackson and physical therapist Tom Schlitt assisted with the procedure, she said. Jackson held Owens’ legs, and Schlitt hit on the boy’s back. The trio were able to dislodge a piece of corn dog that was stuck in the first-grader’s throat.
Two additional employees followed them out, Lambertucci said. One employee called the school nurse, and the other called 911.
After hearing the radio communication, Principal Rick Wilson and Assistant Principal Ginny Boles were en route to the cafeteria. However, staff resolved the situation prior to their arrival and the school’s nurse was already checking Owens’ vitals.
Educators then called the boy’s mother, Samantha, who was at work, Wilson said. They advised her about the situation, let the mother talk with her son and arranged for a family relative to pick up the boy and take him to get checked out by a medical professional.
Lambertucci and the first-grader’s mother met Wednesday afternoon for the first time after the incident, he said. Samantha Owens expressed her gratitude for the teaching assistant’s actions.
The first-grader’s best friend also expressed his gratitude on Thursday afternoon, Lambertucci said. “He said, ‘Thank you for saving my friend.’ He broke my heart the way that he said it.”
The teaching assistant has tried to take the last couple days in stride. “Everything happened in such a short time, but it felt like hours when we were in the moment. Afterward, I went back to class and tried to get back in my normal routine. I didn’t really process any of it until I came down from the adrenaline and shock. It was a one in a million thing. However, I don’t feel like I did anything extraordinary. I did what anybody else in this building would have done in that situation. We’re a family, a village. We’d do anything for these kids.”
Lambertucci is one of “a significant number” of John Sevier Elementary School faculty and staff who have received CPR certification, Wilson said. She received CPR certification about 20 years ago.
Maryville City Schools offers trainings every nine weeks, he said. “A lot of school districts don’t provide that support, so we’re in a unique situation. However, as prepared as we are here, we realize that every situation is unique. We always need to be vigilant. We need to have 100 sets of eyes on these kids.”
Six teaching assistants and one additional person are in the cafeteria for each lunch period, Wilson said. Only one grade level is in the cafeteria at any given time.
Employee communication is also essential, he said. Staff have access to two-way radio transceivers, and each classroom has a phone.