Teacher saves choking child

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4th-grader ingested seal

By Jen Treacy
For the Optic

A local fourth-grade boy is still alive because of a teacher’s quick action.  

Last week Andres Quintana, a 10-year-old who attends Legion Park Elementary School, began to turn blue while choking on a plastic seal from a water bottle.

Teacher Jessica Gutierrez recognized the emergency and swiftly performed the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the object and saving Quintana’s life.  

“I did what anybody else would have done,” Gutierrez said. “I’m just glad that God was on our side.”

Added Andres, “I’m grateful that she saved me.”

The Heimlich maneuver is a first aid practice that utilizes abdominal thrusts to force an object from a blocked airway. An immediate response to a blocked airway is crucial, as the brain will begin to lose function when deprived of oxygen. After four minutes, and every minute after, the brain is less likely to be revived.

“She’s an angel sent from heaven,” said Mary Jean Ortiz, Andres’ grandmother, of Gutierrez. “She was able to act really quickly and actually save his life.”  

Ortiz said the bottle seal was improperly screwed onto a water bottle, and Andres began to choke after he tried to take a drink. Gutierrez realized what was happening and she performed the life-saving technique.  

“It’s good that we have teachers like that to make our children feel safe,” said Ortiz.  Her husband, Paul Ortiz, also expressed their eternal gratitude for the teacher’s ability to assess the situation and respond rapidly. Both were thankful that Gutierrez was able to be in the right place and act at the right time.

Inventor Dr. Henry Heimlich estimates that more than 100,000 lives have been saved since the maneuver was introduced in 1974.  

Choking is the fourth-leading cause of accidental death in the United States, killing nearly 4,600 people per year.

“Nothing can express our gratitude,” said Mary Jean Ortiz, who sent a card and flowers to her grandson’s fourth-grade teacher and life-saver.  “She’s our hero.”