Teacher rescues choking student

Tracy Bonebrake Miller now has special bond with third-grader Josh McCleaf

January 19, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Hooverville Elementary School third-grade student Josh McCleaf, 9, is grateful that physical education teacher Tracy Bonebrake Miller was able to dislodge a piece of food he choked on in the school cafeteria.
By Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Tracy Bonebrake Miller doesn't want hype for what she says was being the right person in the right place at the right time.

The flowers and media attention after she helped a choking elementary school student left her visibly uneasy. But 9-year-old Josh McCleaf's parents credit the teacher with the boy walking away from the incident unharmed.

"I wanted to see him with my own two eyes and see it was OK," said Denise McCleaf, Josh's mother. "I feel so blessed God put her here at the right time."

Lunchtime on Jan. 3 in the cafeteria at Hooverville Elementary School started like any other. Bonebrake Miller, a physical education teacher, was making her rounds on cafeteria duty when a group of students started trying to get an adult's attention.

"I noticed Josh was giving the universal sign of choking," Bonebrake Miller said.

Josh, who was choking on a chicken patty, said he learned the sign in Cub Scouts.

"It felt like it was stuck, lodged in there," Josh said.

Bonebrake Miller learned First Aid, CPR and the Heimlich maneuver in high school and renewed her certification over the years. She said teachers are not required to be trained in the Heimlich maneuver, but she appreciates having that knowledge in Josh's time of need.

"I really think it's important for everyone to know the Heimlich maneuver because you don't know when it'll be needed," Bonebrake Miller said.

It took three attempts to dislodge the food.

"I think it was pretty quick. It seemed to take forever," Bonebrake Miller said.

Josh's friends acted responsibly and did not crowd around him, she said.

Josh said he talked to the school nurse and then returned to his third-grade classroom. His mother stopped by to ensure he was all right.

"It was very scary. It didn't hit me until later how scary it was," Bonebrake Miller said.

"I'm just glad Miss Miller helped," Josh said.

"I definitely have a special bond with Josh now," Bonebrake Miller said.

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