Troy school custodian saves choking 9-year-old

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TROY, Mich. (AP) — An elementary school custodian in Troy is being hailed a hero for saving a fourth grader who was choking on a nacho chip.

Russ Palen, 55, acted quickly in the Woodland Elementary School cafeteria Wednesday when he heard a student say a classmate was choking, principal Arryn Schneider said.

"Russ saw a student with a look of panic on his face, and the student was in fact choking," he said.

Palen told the Oakland Press ( ) that he was "scared to death" for a moment before going over OcTave Lawrence, 9, and performing the Heimlich maneuver.

"Russ immediately went over to the student and performed the Heimlich maneuver and dislodged the nacho chip the student was choking on," Schneider said. "Thankfully, the student was OK — just a little scared — and was able to continue his day."

The custodian is a former manufacturing supervisor for an automotive supplier who lost his job seven years ago. He said he was required to take safety classes and get certified each year as a supervisor.

The boy's mother, who's a registered nurse, said she and her family are "forever grateful" for Russ and his fast response.

"We've always known Russ cares about all of our students, and that day, Russ was a hero," Schneider said.

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