Crime - Sacto 911

North Sacramento custodian draws on first-aid training to save choking student

As the father of five children, school custodian Sean Ufland said he took first-aid and CPR classes so he could help his youngsters in an emergency.

Officials at Harmon Johnson Elementary School in North Sacramento credit Ufland’s training and quick thinking with saving the life of a sixth-grade girl who was choking Monday in the school cafeteria.

Ufland took the crucial action in a team response that began with alert students, said Vice Principal Jeanne Haddad. The sixth-graders were in the cafeteria eating chicken nuggets when three girls noticed that another girl had her head on the table and appeared to be unconscious. The girls summoned cafeteria manager Maria Ortiz, who checked the girl’s vital signs.

Ufland said he was across the room and hurried over to help. “Their body language told me something was wrong,” he said.

If was obvious that the girl was choking, Ufland said, explaining that she had her hands around her throat.

“She looked bad,” he said.

Remembering his first-aid training, he administered the Heimlich maneuver and the girl coughed up the chicken nugget.

“It happened fast and your adrenaline gets going ... It was scary,” Ufland said, but he was gratified to have the skills needed to help the student.

“They say you never forget, and you never really do,” he said of the first-aid training.

The girl’s mother was contacted and came to the the school. After her mother determined that she was OK, the girl returned to class, Haddad said.

Ufland said the girl ran up to him the next morning, gave him a big hug and thanked him.

But Ufland doesn’t consider his actions extraordinary. “It’s a great place to be,” he said of the school. “Every staff member would have reacted just like I did.”