Teen who learned Heimlich maneuver at school saves choking classmate

MILLIS, Mass. — A teen in Millis is being called a hero for saving a student by using the Heimlich maneuver, which he learned in class.

Knowing how to save someone from choking and actually saving someone. Millis High School junior Sean White now knows those are two very different things.

"We were all learning math. Just a normal class," said White.

But moments later, a classmate appeared to be in distress.

"He started coughing loudly. We were a little confused at first, wondering what was happening," said White.

At Millis High School, all students learn CPR is physical education class.

"We've been doing this for about ten years. We teach every sophomore in the building," said Millis High  School physical education teacher Anthony Fallon.

Sean White took the course last year. It includes how to perform the Heimlich maneuver when someone is choking.

And suddenly in math class, someone was choking.

"I went up behind him and wrapped my arms around him. And so I asked him, like, are you choking? Just to make sure because I'm going to put my arms around him. He started shaking his head again," said White.

White applied five or six upward thrusts to the choking student's diaphragm and out popped a pen cap.

"At the time I was stunned for like a second, but all the adrenaline I was getting when it happened, I was able to do it without being nervous," said White.

Teacher Anthony Fallon says that is no small feat.

"It's the first time I heard one of our students react to a situation and use what we've taught them in a real-life situation, which is remarkable," said Fallon.

The Millis Fire Department thought so, too. It recently presented Sean with its "Lifesaver Award" for his heroic actions in December.

"I think most of the other kids were stunned, and you can't blame them for that because it was a scary thing. I was scared after the fact, he was still scared. The whole thing was crazy," said White.

In nearly 40 states, high school students can't graduate unless they pass a CPR training course. Massachusetts has no such requirement, yet. Legislation to that effect is pending on Beacon Hill.

Count Sean White as a supporter.

"It's a skill that everyone, I think, should learn, especially in high school," he said. "You never want to have to do it, but we all wanted to make sure we knew how to do it."

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