Ecker Hill secretary saves choking student
Becky Broadhead says instinct took over during emergency
When a frantic adult brought a seventh-grade boy into Ecker Hill Middle School’s counseling office five minutes after school ended on March 14, Becky Broadhead’s instincts took over.
“I looked at him, and he was wide eyed, and I could tell he wasn’t breathing,” she said.
The boy was choking. Broadhead, an administrative assistant in the counseling office, didn’t hesitate. She wrapped her arms around him and performed the Heimlich maneuver. After three thrusts, he spit up a Fruit Roll-Up that had been formed into a lump the size of a golf ball.
In the hours after the incident, Broadhead became emotional thinking about what could have happened if she hadn’t been able to dislodge the Fruit Roll-Up. But at the time, her actions came naturally.
“It was scary after everything was done,” she said. “In the moment, I just kind of went into survival mode. Then, afterwards, I couldn’t believe what just happened.”
Broadhead, it turned out, was well prepared for such an emergency. She first learned the Heimlich maneuver when she was 16 and training to be a life guard. She’s done additional training to remain certified since joining the Park City School District just in case she ever needed it.
“I’ve always had a fear of, ‘What if I was with somebody who needed help and I couldn’t help them?’” she said. “That’s why, when I was 16, I started doing that. I don’t ever want to not be able to help.”
Despite her training, Broadhead said she didn’t do anything that someone else in the same situation wouldn’t have done. She deflected credit, saying it was a simple matter of seeing an emergency and reacting.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘I don’t think I could do it,’” she said. “Yes you can. Not because I think I could do it — I just did it. You can because what do you have to lose? You have nothing to lose by trying. I didn’t want anything bad happening on my watch, so I just did the best I knew.”
Given that, the attention Broadhead has received since the incident has been a bit embarrassing, she said. She hasn’t been certain how to react when staff members at the school and parents have thanked or congratulated her.
She’s eager to put the episode behind her and get back to her normal routine. Even so, she’ll be prepared if another emergency arises.
“People are very kind and very supportive, and I’ve had a lot of people reach out,” she said. “I’m very appreciative, but I kind of don’t know what to do with all that because I was just doing my job. I also feel like anybody else would have done the same thing. I think people are stronger than they realize.”
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