Fox Meadow teachers hailed as heroes after saving student's life

James Harold III
James Harold III
Ellen Duke
Ellen Duke
Brandy Thompson
Brandy Thompson

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – A Jonesboro family credits their son's school and his teachers for saving his life.

Two first grade teachers at Nettleton Fox Meadow Elementary School in Jonesboro acted quickly Wednesday when six-year-old James Harold III started choking during snack time.

Teacher Ellen Duke gathered James and the rest of his class so that they could watch a video and snack on some chips. Once the kids were seated around, she turned and noticed the smile that she normally sees on James' face was gone.

"James sits right by my seat on the carpet," Duke said, "and I just happened to see him changing colors, changing purplish-red – just very scary."

She asked James if he was choking. The normally talkative boy could only nod his head yes, so she immediately jumped up and started the Heimlich maneuver for the first time in her educational career. At that time, James said he felt "scared and bad."

After trying the Heimlich several times, Duke could not get the chip out, so she ran across the hall to Brandy Thompson's classroom and yelled for help.

"I just immediately reacted," Thompson said, "immediately walked over there and pushed that button for the office and grabbed James."

When she called the office, the staff members there contacted James' father, Will Harold, to let him know what was happening.

"Words can't explain the way you feel you when you get a call like that," Will Harold said. "Words can't describe the terror that instantly grasps you when it's your child. Instantly, you think the worst."

Luckily, the school called him back shortly thereafter and let him know that Thompson finally got the chip out of James' throat. When the six year old finally took a breath again, she said it was such a relief to see him smile.

"That was the biggest relief just to see his dimples flashing at us. We knew he was okay," Thompson said. "[James] was amazing. He wasn't the least bit panicked. I'm sure he was very scared, but he was just a trooper."

Will Harold may still be shaken by everything that happened, but he is now calling his son's teachers true heroes for what they did.

"I appreciate them so much. Words can't even explain that," Will said. "The gratitude that we feel towards them, I mean I'd be broke if I was rich right now."

The teachers, however, demurred, saying they were just doing their jobs.

"I'm no hero," Duke said, "just a teacher reacting to a situation in my classroom."

"As teachers we just did our number one job," Thompson said, "which is for the protection and well-being of these children so that we can teach them. We have to protect them first and so it just kind of kicked in."

The Harold family is now trying to find out what they can do to fully thank the teachers for their quick thinking. On the elementary school's part, administrators plan to hold some extra training sessions so that more teachers know how to properly do CPR and the Heimlich maneuver if the situation should arise again.

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.