LAMBERTVILLE — Sandy Kraine, the Bedford Public Schools’ marketing and communications specialist, drew on training outside her usual area of expertise last week when she prevented a potential tragedy by rescuing a boy choking on grapes at Monroe Road Elementary School.
First grader Drake Utter was choking badly when two of his classmates notified Mrs. Kraine of the situation.
She said she immediately saw the boy needed help and gave him a couple of blows to the back that failed to dislodge the food from his windpipe.
She then grabbed him from behind and administered the Heimlich maneuver, which cleared enough of the grapes so Drake could partially breathe.
The boy was able to clear the rest of the blockage himself and soon was breathing normally. He walked to the school’s health room, where he was checked out by health aide Joann Sloan, who also called the boy’s mother.
Drake made a quick recovery, finished the rest of his lunch, and joined his classmates at recess.
Mrs. Kraine’s position is part time, and she was at Monroe Road because she had been asked to cover a lunchroom opening.
She had been trained in the Heimlich maneuver by the school district’s nurses, Roxanne Satkowski and Karen Weis, but had never performed it in a real-life situation.
“I relied on what I had learned,” she said.
She said she was reassured too by the nearby presence of lunchroom aide Kate Schmus, who assisted last year in a similar situation at now-closed Temperance Road Elementary.
She also praised Koen Bishop and Liam Agius, the classmates who alerted her to Drake’s distress.
“Sandy is just a wonderful school employee, and this was a case of ‘right person, right time.’ I’m so thankful she was there and able to help,” Superintendent Mark Kleinhans said.
Wanting to turn the choking episode into “a teachable moment,” Mrs. Kraine returned to Monroe Road Elementary the next morning with a sock puppet of a shark named Chompers, which she used to deliver a lesson on “chomp, chew, and swallow” to Drake and his classmates, emphasizing the importance of taking single, small bites, chewing thoroughly, and swallowing before putting more food in the mouth.