TATAMAGOUCHE – A North Colchester High School teacher is lucky to be alive today and he has a student to thank.
During a lunch break at the Tatamagouche school on Monday, teacher Garnett Nickelo found himself in a bit of trouble and was grateful student Maggie Langille came to his rescue.
Nickelo was eating a roast beef lunch in his homeroom while battling a cold.
“I am forced to breathe through my mouth because of the cold and I must have eaten and breathed in at the same time and it got lodged,” recalled Nickelo. “I tried to swallow and couldn’t. I had a drink of water but I knew it wasn’t working so I put my head down to think it through … then I looked at Maggie because I knew she’d know what to do.”
Langille, a Grade 11 student, and a handful of other students were eating their lunch in Nickelo’s homeroom that day, a common occurrence in the school.
“I saw him take a sip of water and put his head down. I asked, ‘you OK?’ and he shook his head no. I asked, ‘do you need the Heimlick’ and he said yes,” said Langille, 16, of The Falls.
She said the maneouvre only took about 10 seconds before the stuck food was freed from Nickelo’s throat.
“I didn’t expect to have to do that. I still get overwhelmed thinking about it … just the fact he could have died,” said Langille, who had Nickelo as a teacher last year and will have him as a math teacher next semester.
“He’s always just so sturdy and seeing him so vulnerable was scary. Afterward, I sat on the floor and cried.”
However, in the moment, Langille was calm and knew what to do.
She credits that to a first aid course she took in Grade 6.
Nickelo said that “speaks volumes” that there are responsible and mature youth in the community who can be prepared in unexpected circumstances.
“It could happen to anyone (and) it speaks volumes that a lot of adolescents have a good head and are responsible when it matters,” said Nickelo, who also took CPR training and has come to the rescue of others as a lifeguard.
The school’s principal, Tom Thomson, said the incident was a reminder of the kind of community the school is.
“I’m extremely proud of all the kids and the sense of community we have here. Everyone looks out for everyone,” said Thomson.
“And it’s an important message that it’s important for people to know (first aid). This brought first aid training to life.”