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November 10, 2017

Ritchie counselor saves choking fifth-grader

Photo/Cassandra Brown
Ritchie Elementary School counselor Tammy Shaffer saved fifth-grader Julian Perry last week after he choked on pretzels.
Stefon Perry thanks Ms. Shaffer for saving his son on Friday.
Her emergency training kicked in when a student needed it most.

Last Friday around 1 p.m., Ritchie Elementary school counselor Tammy Shaffer jumped into action during lunch when, Julian Perry, 10, started choking on pretzels.

“I heard somebody at Julian’s table saying ‘Julian is choking’,” said Ms. Shaffer who was monitoring the cafeteria at the school near New Baltimore.

The fifth-grader who walked toward her “couldn’t speak. The look on his face . . . I could tell he was scared,” she said.

Ms. Shaffer started to “bang” on his back with her hand. “He wasn’t able to cough or speak. Nothing was coming out.”

“I instantly put my arms around his waste and started pushing in and up,” performing the Heimlich maneuver, she said.

“The second (push) I could feel him getting a little breath,” Ms. Shaffer said.

She pushed upwards two more times, and Julian spit the pretzel piece out.

The incident lasted about a minute.

“I wasn’t scared until after it was over,” Ms. Shaffer said. “It was kinda instinct — ‘I gotta save this kid.’ It’s something you do and don’t think about it.

“I’m definitely not a hero. I was just at the right place at the right time,” she said. “It’s one of those things you never want to use, but you’re glad you’re trained in it.”

Julian’s father, Stefon Perry, thanked Ms. Shaffer with flowers during lunch Friday.

“Truth be told, she saved my son’s life,” Mr. Perry said. “His life was in danger and he went to her.”

Mr. Perry said Ms. Shaffer has played an extremely important role in Julian’s life in the last seven years.

When Julian’s mom, an active duty nurse in the U.S. Army, got deployed overseas earlier this year, Ms. Shaffer helped Julian with the transition.

“I wanted to bring attention to the public, how much of an impact she can have on your household,” Mr. Perry said. “It has been a blessing for her to be here and talk to my children . . . about a parent being gone.”

Julian has an older sister, Takya, who attends Warrenton Middle School. The family lives near New Baltimore.

— Cassandra Brown
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