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School Custodian Honored After Saving Choking Student

Saturday, September 26, 2020 @ 07:09 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

120063625_3414846325227527_918042875870904195_nNEW BETHLEHEM BOROUGH, Pa. (EYT) – Custodian Mike Shilling was honored after helping to prevent a tragedy at Redbank Valley High School on Thursday.

(Pictured: Superintendent Dr. John Mastillo, Custodian Mike Shilling, and High School Principal Ms. Amy Rupp. Photo courtesy of Redbank Valley School District)

Shilling just happened to be at the right place at the right time when a student began choking in the high school cafeteria on Thursday.

According to Shilling, while he was putting fresh trash bags in some of the trash cans, he saw the student moving his head, bobbing it up and down. He didn’t realize anything was wrong until he saw the student put their hands on their neck, giving the universal sign for someone who is choking.

“I ran down, threw down the bag, and asked if (the student) was choking,” Shilling said.

He said the student immediately nodded, and he then began giving the Heimlich maneuver.

Shilling said it took about four thrusts to clear the student’s airway, and he didn’t even see if something came out of the student’s mouth or if the errant food ended up swallowed.

“It shook me up pretty good,” he noted.

According to Shilling, the student was then attended to by school nurse, Valerie Steffy.

Steffy said following the ordeal, the student went to her office, where she checked the student’s vital signs and called the emergency contact for the student.

However, she noted the student said he felt okay afterward and opted to stay and finish the school day.

“(The student) was a real trooper,” she noted.

“We’re just very thankful for Mike and the action he took.”

Shilling, who will mark his 25th year as a volunteer firefighter with New Bethlehem Fire Company 1 in March 2021, said this isn’t the first time his training has come in handy in a situation outside of an official call.

A few years ago, he was spending time with some friends one night when another man, who was snacking on jerky, began choking. Shilling jumped to the rescue that night, as well, though he noted, in that case, it took eight or nine thrusts to dislodge the jerky.

Between the experiences and reviewing video footage from the incident at the school, Shilling noted that reacting to an emergency becomes second nature.

“As soon as (the student) reached for their neck, I was on them in seconds. It was just that quick.”

Shilling was recognized for his quick action by both the school that presented him with a special plaque and the student who wrote him a letter thanking him.

“I’m going to put it in a frame with the plaque the school gave me,” Shilling noted.

While jumping to the rescue may not be in his regular job description, Shilling said it’s just part of who he is.

“I’m there to do my job, but if something else comes up, I’m there to do it.”

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