Tyra Winters, a high school cheerleader, is being hailed as a hero after jumping off her school’s float during a homecoming parade to save a choking child.
The 17-year-old, who attends Rockwall High School in Rockwall, Texas, was aboard a float with her cheerleading squad and football team when she spotted a two-year-old choking in the crowd. Without hesitation, she jumped off the float, ran over to the toddler and performed the Heimlich maneuver.
The high school senior, who says she heard people whispering that a child in the crowd was choking, spotted the little boy whose face was "super, super red."
"At this point, he’s kind of turning purple," Winters said. "I picked him up and then I tilted him downwards and gave him two or three back thrusts. He then was spitting everything up."
The boy’s mother, Nicole Hornback, told ABC News that she had tried to perform the Heimlich on her son Clarke to no avail. “I was sitting right next to him. I just happened to look over. There was no noise, no coughing, no breathing,” Hornback said. "I just literally was holding him out and just running through the crowd trying to hand him off to anyone."
The mother calls Winters "very brave" and is in awe that she was so willing to take responsibility for a child’s life. “She saved my baby,” Hornback said. “I commend her for being a teenager and being trained.” The three reunited this week, but Clarke couldn’t remember Winters. "It’s hard for him because he’s so young," his mother said. "He doesn’t even remember what he ate for breakfast."
Winters is simply grateful that she could help Clarke. She thanks her mother, who runs a group home for foster children, for showing her how to perform the Heimlich and CPR a few years ago. "I knew exactly what to do from that point on," she said. The senior hopes to become a pediatric surgeon in the future.
The school district and the entire community have applauded Winters’ courage and compassion. "I know they're calling me the town hero," Winters said. "It's super exciting to own that title. But, most importantly, I'm just glad the boy is OK."
According to Saint Luke's Health System, to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a child, ages one to twelve, the child should be lying on their back. The person performing the maneuver should kneel at their feet, place the heel of one hand in the middle of their body between the navel and ribs, place the other hand on top of the other and use gentle but firm pressure to give 6 to 10 rapid thrust upward and inward. While a person is performing the Heimlich maneuver, others should call 911 in case the child should need further assistance.
It is necessary to act as quickly as possible since a blocked airway can be very serious or even deadly. Choking can block the flow of air and cut off oxygen to the brain, which may result in permanent brain damage or death.