Jamye Montgomery didn’t hesitate to act March 28 when she saw a student choking during lunch in the Young Elementary School cafeteria.

Montgomery’s actions may have saved Brooks Dean Moore Jr.’s life.

The 10-year-old is a student in Kristi Powell’s third-grade class, who said he began choking on a bite of sandwich soon after he sat down to eat lunch that day with his class.

“I started choking, and I went over to the trashcan,” Brooks said.

Montgomery, Young Elementary’s cafeteria manager, said she was scanning student information into a nearby computer when she noticed Brooks move toward the trashcan, something that isn’t unusual behavior for the student.

“He sometimes takes his trash to the trashcan early or will get up for something more than other kids,” said Christy Norwood, Young Elementary School principal.

Yet, Montgomery said she sensed something was different about Brooks’ trip to the trashcan that day.

mjordan2@sdale.org“I watched him, and then he just started coughing, and then he stopped,” she said. “His face was turning red.”

Montgomery asked Brooks if he was OK and said he shook his head “no.”

“There was no sound coming out,” she said, adding Brooks began grasping his throat with his hands. “I just put my arm around him and started hitting on his back first, and nothing was working.”

Montgomery said she had never performed the Heimlich maneuver before, but had been trained to do so.

Named for doctor Henry Heimlich, the Heimlich maneuver is a method of responding to airway obstructions by performing abdominal thrusts on a choking victim, according to the National Library of Medicine with the National Center for Biotechnology.

Montgomery said she performed the maneuver on Brooks four times before dislodging a rather large wad of sandwich from his throat.

“It flew out of my mouth,” Brooks said, describing the experience as scary and horrible.

Montgomery said she simply reacted in the moment to aid Brooks, and didn’t really feel nervous until after the experience.

“I was happy it came up, and I started thinking of what could happen,” she said.

mjordan2@sdale.orgTraining in Action

Montgomery has worked with Springdale Schools for more than 28 years and at Young for about 11. She said she’s voluntarily been certified to perform CPR many times over the course of her career, which includes training on the Heimlich maneuver.

“Anybody in the school district can take the training,” said Gena Smith, Springdale Public Schools Child Nutrition director. “If there's any costs involved, then we cover that.”

Smith said the district encourages its Child Nutrition and cafeteria staff to obtain CPR certification.

“I'm the only medical professional in the building,” said Lindsay Hammonds, Young Elementary School nurse. “I need other participating adults to step in and help kids that need help.”

Amy Schultz, Springdale Schools’ nursing director, said an incident such as Brooks’ choking makes it clear how important safety is in all district buildings.

“Learning how to give CPR, how to do the Heimlich, it can save a life,” Schultz said. “That's what it's for.”

Shultz said 1,159 of the district’s approximately 3,000 staff members are currently CPR certified.

Hammonds said Montgomery’s actions speak to her bravery.

“It takes a lot of courage to take the class and being trained, because you're basically committing to ‘I'm going to use this training if the situation arises,’” Hammonds said.

mjordan2@sdale.orgThankful Gesture

Brooks thanked Montgomery for saving him from choking April 4 by presenting her with flowers from the school and a Harps’ gift card from his mother.

“My mom was worried about me when she heard this news,” Brooks said of the choking incident.

Schultz also presented Montgomery with a Hero Award certificate from the district.

“It was sweet. It surprised me,” Montgomery said, adding Brooks will now say “hi” or give her a hug when he sees her.

“He used to never do that,” she said.

Norwood said she also worked with Montgomery at Jones Elementary School.

“She cares about the kids,” Norwood said. “She notices things, not just the situation, but if other things seem off with a student.”

There were about 160 out of the school’s 500 pre-K to fifth-grade students in the cafeteria at the time of the incident, she said.

“She knows the kids and recognizes things about them,” Norwood said. “She just went in to action for what was needed.”

Montgomery’s final thought on that day was simple.

“I’m glad I was there," she said.

Springdale Public Schools staff members interested in obtaining CPR certification may contact Amy Schultz at aschultz@sdale.org.