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Aide saves 3rd-grader from choking

Madison Maduna1 / 2
Tricia Back2 / 2

After a brush with tragedy, Tricia Back believes first-aid training should be mandatory for recess and lunchroom aides in District 833.

On Thursday, May 27, Back was at her job as recess and lunchroom aide at Cottage Grove Elementary School. She was sweeping the floor in the cafeteria when a third-grade child yelled her name and said the girl sitting next to her was sick.

Back rushed over and saw Madison Maduna, a third-grader in Mary Virgin's class, bent over.

Back thought she was throwing up, but that wasn't the case.

"She was just white," Back said in an interview June 4.

After asking her if she could breathe, Back determined that Madison was choking.

Back started to administer the Heimlich maneuver, something she learned in a first-aid class 18 years ago.

But uncertainty set in and she wondered if she was doing it correctly.

"Am I supposed to wait after each time I do it?" and, "am I in the right spot?" crossed her mind.

Also, whatever was lodged in Maduna's throat was not coming out.

Time moved slowly in Back's mind but it was actually closer to a minute later when Amy Stanton, another aide, yelled, "it's out."

The school nurse had called 911 but Back noticed the color coming back into Maduna's face.

"I wanted to kiss that girl as much as I kiss my own children," Back said. "I'm just glad it turned out well."

The culprit was a piece of sausage, Maduna said in an interview.

"I was really scared because my grandpa died last year after he choked on a piece of steak," she said. "My mom was scared when I talked to her later on the phone."

Back knew how to administer the maneuver and thinks all recess and lunchroom aides should have first-aid training. She's aware anyone can take a first-aid class, but she wants it to be mandatory, just as taking a class in blood-borne pathogens is required.

In her aide job, and at her job at Kid's Club, an after- and before-school program, there are many safety issues, she said.

Maduna agrees first-aid training is a good idea.

"If something happened to my friends, I'd want them to be safe," she said.

To thank her for being alert and acting on the choking incident, Back was honored on Wednesday, June 3, when Superintendent Mark Porter and Assistant Superintendent Dave Bernhardson came to school to give her a bouquet of flowers.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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