Fourth-grader saves friend's life with Heimlich

2012-01-30T00:30:00Z 2012-01-30T15:35:01Z Fourth-grader saves friend's life with HeimlichGenelle Pugmire - Daily Herald Daily Herald
January 30, 2012 12:30 am  • 

OREM -- Fourth-grader Gary Anderson has the right stuff. As a pupil he is smart, respectful and obedient. For making good decisions and being a top scholar during library time at Noah Webster Academy, Anderson was rewarded with a trip to the library's candy jar on Wednesday.

"I got an Atomic Fireball," Anderson said. "It's hot and about the size of a small jawbreaker."

One of his best friends, Carter Helt, was also in the class. The two boys met in first grade and have been friends ever since. Helt watched as Anderson popped the candy into his mouth.

Then something went terribly wrong. According to Anderson, the candy didn't dissolve but started moving to the back of his mouth.

"It slipped and went down my throat. I tried to cough it out but it went further down. Then I started choking. I was not able to breathe," Anderson recalled. "I felt like I was going to die. It was really scary."

Things rapidly got worse. Anderson started pointing to his throat, twisting his head and body, and banging on the table. He said it did it because it was something he says he would never regularly do, hoping to get attention. Some of the kids thought he was joking. The teachers and librarians weren't close enough to get to him quickly.

"Then I started turning purple," Anderson said.

Helt could see what was going on. Without stopping to think, Helt ran to Anderson and applied the Heimlich maneuver to his diaphragm, pushing upward just under his rib cage. Nothing happened.

The second time Helt applied the maneuver, the candy was dislodged.

"I had to twist him around before I could do it, everybody was watching," Helt said.

"I saw Gary slam his hand against the librarian's desk and I knew that was something he wouldn't do. That's when the librarian asked 'what's the matter?' " Helt said.

Anderson said it was a relief to be able to breathe again. He added that the candy just came flying out of his mouth.

"It felt like a bug in my throat flying out and slimy. The candy flew out about 12 inches then dropped straight to the floor," Anderson said.

Helt said the reason he was able to be so quick about it and recognized that his friend was in distress was because he had learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver in his health class just two weeks earlier.

School principal Richard Kempton said that since Noah Webster opened in 2006 this is the first real hero situation the school has had.

"This is also the first year we've had a licensed P.E. teacher that has prepared health lessons. It really is a miracle," Kempton said. "He didn't stop and think; he just acted."

This isn't the first time someone has choked on a piece of candy, or even had a friend on hand who knows the Heimlich maneuver. But Anderson and his mother Karina Anderson believe it was a miracle.

"I was at work and doing medical assisting and couldn't get to the phone when the school reported the incident," Karina Anderson said. "At first I was thinking Heavenly Father, thank you. He made Carter be brave and he knew what to do."

When Chrystal Helt picked Carter up from school that afternoon she didn't know he was a hero.

"Carter got in the car and I asked him how his day was," Chrystal Helt said. "He said, 'I saved Gary's life today.' I thought he was kidding, then he told me the story."

Chrystal Helt said once she got home she called everyone she knew to tell them Carter saved his best friend's life and that he was a hero. The Helts also received a thank you email from the Andersons.

The school will recognize Helt in a special meeting Monday morning.

The two boys say that while they have been good friends, they are now best friends.

For safety, the school has removed the candy jar.

Anderson added, "I'm not going to eat hard candy again."

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