It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: They receive a phone call from school that something has gone terribly wrong. Unfortunately for Noelia Echavarria’s family, this was a reality recently when she was rushed to the hospital after choking on a sandwich in the cafeteria of her Brooklyn school. Echavarria, heartbreakingly, is still in the hospital on life support after being declared brain-dead.
Last Wednesday, at PS 250 in Williamsburg, the 7-year-old began choking on her lunch in the crowded cafeteria. Her parents suspect that she was trying to finish her sandwich too quickly, as she had complained of being rushed by teachers to finish up in the past. Echavarria’s family, including mom Ana Iris Santiago, also thinks that school staff waited far too long to respond.
According to reports, Qwasi Reid, a private EMT who happened to be driving past the school, was flagged down by a staff member. “She was already turning blue, and that takes a while,” Reid said. Reid — who was suspended from his job for making an unauthorized stop(!) — suspects that the first-grader had been choking for at least five minutes before he arrived. He also added that no one in the school seemed to be helping her. “People were screaming, but no one was doing anything,” he told reporters. The family’s lawyer, David Perecman, also suspects that the first call to 911 was made by Reid, not a member of the school staff.
More: St. John Ambulance’s ‘The Chokeables’ helps you save a choking baby (VIDEO)
An investigation is underway, but going off of what we know right now, it doesn’t sound like the school was on top of its game. Of course, each child can’t always be watched individually all day long — especially in boisterous, busy cafeterias — but when we send our children to school, we assume they’re being cared and looked out for. Schools are filled with trained professionals, which should make us feel confident and comfortable, but clearly that’s not always the case.
Ultimately when we send our children to school, they’re out of our hands for that period of time. Again, we should all be able to feel comfortable with the people we’re leaving our children with, but it may not be a bad idea to equip our kids with knowledge that could possibly help or even save them before we send them off to school.
Teach your child the international sign for choking, which is simply putting their crossed hands by their neck. This video shows exactly how to make the sign at around the 22-second mark:
This is also good for recognizing if someone else is making the signal, so your child can alert a teacher or even step in themselves.
If no one seems to be responding to your child, or if they’re alone, there are also ways they can try to dislodge whatever is stuck. According to Mayo Clinic, people who are choking should place a fist slightly above their belly button, grasp their fist with the other hand and bend over a hard surface, shoving the fist inward and upward. This video demonstrates the technique Mayo Clinic suggests:
Of course, even with this said, we parents hope our children are looked after at school and that appropriate action is taken should anything ever go wrong.