Thursday, November 23, 2017 Elyria 38°


Brookside teacher saves choking student


SHEFFIELD — Donna Rini is the one teacher at Brookside High School about whom everyone is talking about right now.

If they didn’t know her before Wednesday, they definitely know who she is now. In the classroom, students are singing her praises, calling her a hero. And, in the halls, Rini is getting high-fives.

Rini is being lauded for using the Heimlich maneuver to save a choking student who had a piece of candy lodged in his windpipe. In two quick, upward movements, Rini’s actions have transformed her from a teacher to a lifesaver.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rini and the student she saved, 16-year-old Jason Cox, recounted the incident that in their estimation lasted less than 30 seconds.

Jason was sitting at a science lab table when he started to eat some candy he received from a classmate. On the last Skittle, Jason said it felt like something quickly went into his throat and he immediately could not breathe.

“I started gasping for air and pounding on the table,” he said.

“I don’t want to say my life flashed before my eyes, but I was afraid. I was totally panicking.”

The first person to come to Jason’s aid was fellow student Nathan Parsons, who coincidentally was the person who gave him the candy.

“It was just like a natural thought and reaction to try to help,” he said. “I didn’t know how to do it, but I was going to attempt.”

By this time, Rini said students who sat in front of the two boys were starting to panic and got her attention. She quickly moved to him, wrapped her arms around his midsection and gave him two quick thrusts.

The candy came flying out.

“To me, it was just the thing to do,” Rini said. “He couldn’t really speak, he had his hands up and around his throat and I knew exactly what was wrong with him. You don’t get nervous until after the fact.”

Rini, who came to the district nine years ago, said she learned the Heimlich maneuver while working at her previous job as an ophthalmic technician. She has never used it on a student.

Jason went to the school nurse who checked him out and called his parents, but it was not too long before the teenager was doing OK again.

“Basically, the day went on,” he said.

He didn’t even let him parents fuss over him when he got home.

“I got the normal reaction from my mother. She was glad I was alive,” he said.

As for Nathan, 15, he said he would like to learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver now.

“They should teach it to teachers and teach it in health classes,” he said.

Rini said she wouldn’t be surprised if at some point it became a part of essential training for teachers and staff.

“It’s a skill that everyone should know even if they never have to use it,” she said.


The Heimlich maneuver should be used if a choking victim can’t speak or breathe and needs immediate help.

Follow these steps to help a choking victim:

  • From behind, wrap your arms around the victim’s waist.
  • Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against the victim’s upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel.
  • Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into their upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Do not squeeze the ribcage; confine the force of the thrust to your hands.
  • Repeat until object is expelled.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or

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