Teacher saves choking student’s life

Photo courtesy of Rhonda Hassan. Henry Ford Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Rhonda Hassan (left), student Ali Saleh and sister Maryam Saleh unite after Hassan saved the life of Saleh while he choked on a grape during class Sept. 15.

Photo courtesy of Rhonda Hassan. Henry Ford Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Rhonda Hassan (left), student Ali Saleh and sister Maryam Saleh unite after Hassan saved the life of Saleh while he choked on a grape during class Sept. 15.

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — One Henry Ford Elementary school teacher is being called a hero after she saved the life of her choking student.

Fourth-grade teacher Rhonda Hassan successfully dislodged a grape from the throat of student Ali Saleh Sept. 15 after the students returned from lunch and were working their math pretest.

“Ali dropped his pencil during his test and reached down to pick it up,” Hassan said. “When he stood up he began making an unusual noise while he tried to gasp for air.”

Hassan then began asking Saleh what was wrong but he couldn’t respond and that’s when Hassan realized the student was choking and not vomiting.

“I kept asking what’s wrong but he didn’t answer me,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think because we weren’t eating any food in class at the time.”

Hassan said she took Saleh to the recycle bin because it was the closest to his seat and said a prayer before administering a series of back blows.

“Nothing happened after my first attempt,” she said. “So I tapped his back again between his shoulder blades and a big grape flew out of his mouth.”
Saleh then began speaking right away, saying, “Oh, my gosh. My whole body is shaking.”

Hassan then called the principal and took Saleh down to the office where he called his mother.

“He is known as a prankster at home,” Hassan said. “So when he called his family they thought it was joking about the incident.”

It wasn’t until a couple days later at the school’s open house that the family discovered the choking incident was very real.

“His sister came to the open house and I brought up the incident to her,” Hassan said. “Once his sister realized the incident was real, she began thanking me and telling me she was thankful I was there to help him.”

Hassan said she learned choking rescue procedures and CPR after spending two months at the neonatal intensive-care unit at Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn when her twins were born prematurely.

“I have four kinds so I felt that it is important to know how to their save their lives in similar situations,” she said. “I had to also perform the Heimlich maneuver on my son during the summer when he was choking on a piece of steak.”

Hassan said that every teacher or parent should complete CPR or choking rescue training in case of a similar incident occurs in the classroom or at home.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com)

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