Adrenaline is a really weird thing, not just for strength, but for dragging things from the depths of your long term memory to the surface. I had no idea I even knew how to do the Heimlich Maneuver until the teacher from across the hall burst into my second period classroom and blurted, “Do you know the Heimlich?” I automatically followed her across the hall.

I entered her classroom to see a large sixth grade boy standing at the front of the room, eyes wide, drool running over his blue gray lips. His teacher hurried to the phone, and I ran to stand behind the boy. Somehow I knew exactly what needed to happen.

I found the soft spot where the ribs come together and shoved my left fist into it. I placed my right hand over my fist, planted my feet, and thrust with all my might a few times. I could hear the boy attempting to breath, but he was unsuccessful.

“Bend over!” I yelled. Perhaps it was divine intervention, or just more adrenaline power, but somehow I believed having him bend a little at the waist may give me more leverage over the sixth grader who was close to my own weight and height. Two or three more thrusts with all the strength I could muster, and I heard a deep rattle. Then my boy took a deep breath.

“Can you breathe?” his teacher asked. He nodded. I hadn’t noticed that she had come back to the front of the room. Nor did I notice until then the thirty students who sat quietly, obviously shocked, in their desks.

“Thank god,” I muttered as I let go. I put my hands on my knees and took a couple deep breaths of my own. The door was open, and outside in the hall, was one of my students. I was not surprised to see him. He vibrates with hyperactive energy and chases me around my classroom on a normal day. There was no way he could miss something like this. Seeing him reminded me that I had a class full of students across the hall.

It was just a few steps across the hall, but by the time I hit my doorway, I was a shaky, dizzy mess. My students, except the one, had stayed in their desks. All eyes were on me, and they looked worried. I said, “I need to go gather myself. I’ll be right back.”

While I was in the bathroom washing my hands and deciding whether I was going to throw up or not, my hallway watcher must have filled the class in on what had occurred. I entered my classroom to applause.

So the moral of this story is that everyone needs to learn the Heimlich because you just never know if you’ll need it. I am very thankful to whomever taught it to me. On a lighter note, I am also thankful I didn’t use any profanity in front of students. Usually in stressful situations, I blurt out all the family words and then some. And, although I did have the shakes for an hour afterward, I am glad I didn’t throw up because that’s the worst.   

Learn the Heimlich Maneuver from the Mayo Clinic here: