Head Start Staff Saves Child from Choking

posted 12/19/19 -- LCCAA Head Start teachers are ready for anything and three at Hopkins-Locke recently proved it by saving a child from choking.

Yaxiel Rodriguez, 3, is a student in one of two Spanish-speaking rooms at Hopkins-Locke. One day in November, while enjoying a snack of oranges, Yaxiel was suddenly gasping for breath.

Teachers Steve Ortiz (right) and Estephanie Alvarado (left) each tried the Heimlich maneuver on the boy with no results. Meanwhile, they used the classroom intercom to call for site administrator Akeea Hodges (center with Yaxiel).

Hodges picked Yaxiel up, turned him over her forearm and administered three back blows dislodging the orange. Meanwhile, 9-1-1 was called and Family Service Worker Nilsa Baez reached Yaxiel's mother, Joyce Rivera.

Hodges rode with Yaxiel to Mercy Hospital where they were met by a very grateful Rivera.

"I love the fact that all staff are trained in safety," Rivera said. "I'm very grateful to Mrs. Akeea and the teachers."

All Head Start staff take classes every two years to stay certified in first aid and CPR. Hodges renewed her certification in July.

"In that moment, you can't show fear. You can't be scared. You just have to react," she said, adding that after Yaxiel was safe, she definitely felt the fear her training had kept at bay.

"I'm so proud of how the entire staff took care of Yaxiel," said Head Start Director Shauna Matelski, M.Ed. "They trusted their training and their compassion for this family drove everything they did that day."

A few days after the incident, Yaxiel returned to school with no ill effects. His mother enthusiastically recommends the program. And Hodges, has a new shadow at the center.

"He is my new buddy," she said.

Click here for reminders on how to help a choking child.