Tahlequah Daily Press

November 30, 2012

Quick-thinking boy saves friend

Staff Writer

BRIGGS — When Briggs fourth-graders Caleb Davis and Justice Retzloff went to lunch Tuesday, they didn’t know a potentially life-changing event was about to take place.

The boys were bound for the room where they knew hunger pangs would disappear and recess would soon follow, but within minutes, Caleb would be putting into practice what he’s observed several times on television: the Heimlich maneuver.

Justice said he bit off a sizable piece of his dinner roll, started chewing, tried to take a drink – and knew right away he was choking.

“I just looked at Caleb and he saw my eyes. They were like – they had green in them and they were bulging,” Justice said. “It was like one minute after I started chewing.”

The boys began their friendship when they met playing pre-kindergarten little league sports, so they were familiar with each other’s facial and body gestures. Caleb was sitting on the same side of the bench table, and when he looked at his friend, he briefly wondered if Justice was kidding around.

Then he realized the moment was real, and life-threatening.

“He was kind of bending over [with his head lowered toward his knees]. I put my around him and went one, two, and it popped out,” Caleb said. “I’ve seen [the Heimlich maneuver] on TV before. When I did it, some girls were laughing at me. They stopped when they knew we weren’t joking.”

The lunch-room incident has prompted school officials at Briggs to begin looking into adding some first aid/crisis response training to its physical education curriculum, said school counselor Candi Davis, who also happens to be 10-year-old Caleb’s mother.

She was in Tulsa on the day of her son’s life-saving act.

“I was in Tulsa at a meeting, and I got a text from a teacher that said Caleb had just performed the Heimlich on another student and that the student is fine. That was our first concern,” Davis said. “I was very proud of Caleb, that he could think and act calm in a crisis situation and help his friend. He, on the other hand, didn’t seem to think it was much of a big deal. I left my meeting, and I called him and he said, ‘It’s recess, Mom, I’m busy,’ and he told me, ‘I was just helping my friend out and that’s what you do.’ I’m glad he knows that. When he came home that night, he said, ‘Mom do you think TV’s a waste of time anymore?’”

Since the incident, the boys said, their classmates have expressed concern for Justice and quizzed Caleb on how he knew to use the Heimlich maneuver. Justice said he wouldn’t have known what to do had he been alone, and urged the other kids never to play when eating, or joke around about serious matters.

“I would say don’t do it, because it can happen really fast,” he said.

In using the teachable moment, Davis’ mom said she talked to her son about what could be learned from the incident.

“What Caleb and I talked about most is what could come out of this, and it’s knowledge for other children,” she said.

“That is so important because it can happen anywhere, and it happens so fast. How can we equip other students or other young children to know how to act in a moment of crisis? We want to raise awareness and want kids at our school to be ready in any kind of crisis situation.”