‘A true hero’: Hanover elementary school teacher saves choking student’s life

HANOVER, Mass. — A Hanover boy and his mother are singing the praises of a teacher who came to the rescue of the 10-year-old when he choked during lunch.

Aaron Johnson, a fourth grader at Center Elementary School, said he choked on an apple last Friday.

“A piece went flying back into my throat,” he told Boston 25 News.

Aaron said he was struggling to breathe and ran to a teacher for help.

“I was pounding and punching on my back,” he said.

Jill Gagnon said she was standing about 20 feet away when she noticed Aaron giving the universal sign for choking. She quickly put her first aid training to work.

“We kind of made eye contact and it was clear that he was definitely choking,” she said.

Gagnon performed the Heimlich maneuver and with just two or three thrusts, she was able to dislodge the piece of apple from Aaron’s airway.

“She flipped me around and squeezed on my stomach,” Aaron said.

“He went from not breathing to being completely fine,” Gagnon added.

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Gagnon said she gives all the credit to Aaron for the successful outcome.

“I think students knowing when to stand up, find and adult, how to signal for help, show them that you’re choking, I think that’s the most important takeaway from this,” Gagnon said.

“He knew what to do and she knew what to do, which we’re very grateful for,” Aaron’s mother, Michelle Johnson, said.

Today we recognized Center School ABA Tutor Jill Gagnon for her life saving actions last week. Friday Center School...

Posted by Hanover Police Department on Wednesday, March 10, 2021

On Wednesday, Hanover police officers and firefighters joined Aaron and his mom as they delivered Gagnon flowers and cupcakes to thank her for her swift and life-saving actions.

“We were able to have our hero friends recognize his hero,” Michelle said.

“It was really nice to meet the student’s mother and see how much of a difference it made for her, so that part was nice, but I don’t need all the praise, I was doing my job,” Gagnon said.

Hanover Public Schools Superintendent Matt Ferron said Gagnon is “a true hero.”

“Our school nurses and health services team train our staff annually on emergency response, CPR, and first aid for situations just like this one,” Ferron said. “But it takes a person with courage, confidence, and compassion to jump into action like Jill did and we are incredibly grateful for her heroism and humility.”

Gagnon said she has taken part in annual first aid training for the past 15 years.

“It was engrained in me,” Gagnon said. “It was nice to not have to stop and think of what to do, it just came naturally.”

Aaron celebrated his 10th birthday on Friday and this year is extra special.

“We can’t thank Ms. Gagnon enough for what she did for us and it’s because of her that he’s having his birthday,” Michelle said.

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