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Fourth-grader performs Heimlich maneuver, saves friend's life

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Jan. 27, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.


6 photos

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OREM — Carter Helt and Gary Anderson were great friends. Now they say they are "super" friends.

The fourth-graders credit the upgrade to a life or death situation Tuesday in the library of Noah Webster Academy in Orem.

"I was being a good scholar, and I got to pick a treat out of the jar," said Gary, who chose an Atomic FireBall, one of those hot, cinnamon-flavored jawbreakers. "And then I started sucking on it too fast and then it went in my throat and I started choking."

Carter was just a few feet away and could tell something was terribly wrong. The candy had become lodged in Gary's throat and he couldn't breathe.

"I guess I didn't notice him eat it, but he came up and just started choking right there. I could tell he was choking and needed some help," remembers Carter. "He was up there banging his hands against the table, shaking his head, and he was all purple and crying."

Carter knew exactly what to do. He put his arms around Gary and performed the Heimlich maneuver, forcefully pushing the candy out of Gary's airway.

The boys had both just learned about the Heimlich maneuver in health class.

"It was like two weeks ago, and she was teaching us what to do if someone was choking, like a family member choking," Carter said, "and that's what I did for Gary."

Other than a few tears, Gary is fine.

Of course, no one is more relieved than Gary's mom, Karina Anderson, that his friend knew what to do.

"He was able to remember what to do and react right away, because another kid might not have the same reaction, probably just called for help, but it could have been too late," she said.

And Carter's mom, Chrystal Helt, couldn't be prouder. "I was really shocked when he got home from school and told me what happened. At first, I was 'are you serious?' Because you don't hear that happening, that your son does the (Heimlich) maneuver, and I didn't know he knew the Heimlich maneuver."

After the incident, there are no more Atomic FireBalls for good behavior in the school's library. The candy in the prize jar, has been replaced with school supplies.

The boys hope everyone will learn the Heimlich maneuver, because they say you never know when you might have to save a life.

"It really works," Gary said, "because I started choking and it worked when Carter did it to me."

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Sam Penrod

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