Graves County High School JROTC cadet remembers his Heimlich maneuver training to save choking fellow student

“I’ve always wanted to join the military, to help out with my country. So, I joined [Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps] my freshman year. I liked it. We worked out. We had fun in class. We learned,” said Graves County High School junior and JROTC cadet Nathan Maynard. “Then, sophomore year, we learned to do the Heimlich maneuver. I didn’t think I ever actually would have to use it until I graduated and then would use it somewhere out in the field.” However, Maynard put his emergency medical training to use recently, when a fellow student needed help. 

“We were sitting there in English class and my buddy, Garland, asked me if I wanted a piece of jerky,” explained junior Hunter Nolan. “I said, ‘Sure.’ I asked for another one, put it in my mouth, started to chew, and somebody said something funny. I started to laugh. Somehow, the piece of jerky folded and went down my throat and stayed there. I couldn’t breathe. 

“My face started turning red,” Nolan continued. “My eyes were watering. I was looking at my friend and told him I was choking. He got Mr. [teacher Josh] Edwards and several people came over and tried to give me the Heimlich maneuver. It wouldn’t come out. So, Mr. Edwards ran to get more help.”

“Hunter’s friend stood up and said, ‘Mr. Edwards, we have a problem.’ He was pointing at Hunter,” Maynard remembered recently. “Hunter’s face was turning red, but his hands weren’t up by his throat. We were taught that [usually] when you’re choking, your hands would be up by your throat. I really thought he was kidding. Then, he started to bring his hands up by his throat and he started turning blue and purple. The teacher came to help him and then ran out of the room to get help. No one else was helping Hunter. I thought, ‘I guess I should help him, because I kind of know how to do the Heimlich maneuver.’ I started to do it and because he was sitting down, I couldn’t actually get to his sternum like I needed to, so I had to pick him up and when I did, it came out.”

“I could finally breathe!” Nolan exclaimed. “I kept thinking, ‘My mom is probably going to have to pay another medical bill.’ That’s what I thought,” he said. “When it first got stuck, I thought, ‘Well, it’s going to slowly go down and it will be fine.’ Then, it just stayed there. I started to lose a lot of oxygen and I thought, ‘Okay, this is getting serious.’ Then, I thought, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve never dealt with anything like this before in my life.’ Then, everything started turning colors. I started seeing, like, black and blue across the room… a little bit of red. I was thinking, ‘This is getting worse.’”

“When I started to pick him up, he started to get more limp and it was hard to pick him up, because he’s like twice the size of me,” Maynard said. 

Nolan continued, “When I was being picked up, I thought, ‘Well, they’re trying to help.’ Then, everything started to turn black and I was thinking, ‘I don’t want it to end like this.’ I could kind of feel my arms going up and down and I thought, ‘Am I doing this or is somebody really trying to get me up? And, it was Nathan. When it came out of my throat, I could breathe! I wiped the tears out of my eyes and I thought, ‘Well, next time, I’m going to chew.’ Of course, I am really grateful to Nathan for saving me!”

Maynard recalled, “After Mr. Edwards ran to get help, the only thing that went through my mind was that I needed to help Hunter and all I remember after that was him coughing up the jerky. It happened so fast. I even went back to JROTC class and thanked [Col. Jason Caldwell,] our leader, for teaching me how to do it. I said, ‘I actually had to use the Heimlich maneuver today. I actually saved someone’s life! I thought he was going to die!’”

(photo caption)
Graves County High School junior Nathan Maynard (left) remembered his Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps lessons in using the Heimlich Maneuver and recently used that training to save the life of classmate Hunter Nolan (right).
(photo by Paul Schaumburg, Graves County Schools)

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