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The Milton Measure

The Case for CPR: Mr. Pratt Saves Choking Student

by on Friday, February 7th, 2014

Mr. Pratt takes a leisurely stroll from Forbes Dining Hall.

On Thursday, January 16th, Shaw Hagiwara (IV) was finishing his 6th period lunch and leaving Forbes Dining Hall, when suddenly he began to choke on a piece of food. This dire situation necessitated the use of the Heimlich maneuver, which was performed by Mathematics Department faculty member Harold Pratt. This incident has prompted a revival of discussion concerning Milton’s CPR/First Aid requirement.

As Mr. Pratt and Academic Skills Center Director Katie Collins were leaving Forbes that day, they noticed Shaw, who seemed to be hunched over in distress. Hagiwara explained that in a rush to get to his next class, he had eaten his food a little too quickly. “I didn’t even know if I was choking,” said Shaw Hagiwara, but he remembered that he “couldn’t even talk.” Mr. Pratt recalls that Ms. Collins sprang into action, immediately asking the student whether he could breathe. When it became obvious that the student was choking, Mr. Pratt began performing the Heimlich maneuver.

“It all happened so fast,” says Mr. Pratt, “but the Heimlich seemed to work.” After about 40 seconds of the maneuver, Mr. Pratt hit Shaw on the back, causing the piece of lodged food to come out. The situation could have ended much differently had the two faculty members not been around or had not been educated in the proper protocol for aiding a choking victim. Mr. Pratt insisted he could not have performed the actions without the encouragement and support of Ms. Collins. He explained that while people typically assume they will act quickly under the pressure of the situation, he was fortuitous to have Ms. Collins in the vicinity to urge him into action. “Overall,” Mr. Pratt says, “I’m just glad we were there to help.”

While Mr. Pratt and Ms. Collins’ actions are nothing short of heroic, this situation serves as a reminder of how important the Heimlich maneuver, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, and other life-saving techniques can be. The Community CPR and Standard First Aid class requirement is the third installment of the required physical education curriculum at Milton—a class taken either junior or senior year. Milton’s Athletics Department states that this series of physical education requirements has been set in place so that students attain “a better understanding of their bodies, know the benefits and risks inherent in life/fitness choices, be physically active, and be able to give of themselves for the betterment of others.” The CPR and First Aid class holds heavy importance upon this last ideal.

Often, the load of required extracurricular classes invokes grumblings of discontent from Milton students; however, some in the community feel that the tone shown towards the CPR and First Aid class should be the prime example of an exception. Mr. Pratt feels that the course represents a fine example of the simple concept of “people helping people.” He explains that if Milton hopes to serve as an institution that educates the entire student body, these invaluable skills of life-saving capacity must be included somewhere in the curriculum. The first-hand experience of seeing the legitimate hazards of choking has further strengthened Mr. Pratt’s opinion on the importance of a required CPR/First Aid program in the school.

A student who recently completed the course at Milton said that the small class size and individual attention from instructors made the class engaging and the information useful. However, not all are in accordance with this perspective. A Class II student who has yet to take the mandatory CPR course at Milton asserted that while he believes CPR is an important practice to know, it isn’t the only life skill that Milton should be offering as long as there is a physical education requirement. The student points out that other real-world-application skills such as self-defense or navigation are also topics that “might as well be taught” in conjunction with CPR and First Aid, in order to create a more comprehensive physical education curriculum.

Having been a direct recipient of the Heimlich maneuver, Shaw said he would completely agree with having First Aid be a requirement of physical education. “It’s better to have the program,” he said, feeling lucky that help happened to be close to his incident. “It’s good to know the signs [of someone in distress].”

Mr. Pratt urges that people, regardless of their position on the matter, think about the effect of knowing how to administer emergency care to a fellow member of the Milton community. “The time invested [in taking the CPR/First Aid course] is minimal,” Mr. Pratt asserts, “but the possible impact could be immeasurable.”

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