Teacher Carlee Ramirez Used Red Cross Training to Save Choking Student

Carlee Ramirez didn’t expect to use her Red Cross training – but it came in handy when an emergency occurred in the classroom.

Ramirez is a kindergarten teacher for Lake Fenton Public Schools and runs the summer learning program at West Shore Elementary School. Last summer during a class, Ramirez noticed one of her students, 5-year-old Charlie, tapping her own leg with a panicked look on her face. Charlie was holding a lollipop stick in her hand – without the candy sucker at the end of the stick. Realizing that Charlie was choking on the candy sucker, Ramirez sprung into action. She performed the Heimlich Maneuver three to four times, before Charlie finally spit the the candy sucker out across the room.

“I look back and it was a very scary day. You think you won’t know what to do, but then you just do it,” Ramirez said. “I never thought in a million years I’d have to do the Heimlich Maneuver on one of my students. I feel so proud and thankful that I knew what to do.”

For this lifesaving act, Ramirez was nominated for a Red Cross Lifesaving Award by her teacher colleague Patti Sabourin. This award is given to those whose acts of heroism through Red Cross training such as CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver have sustained or saved a life.

The award was given to Ramirez as a surprise at the Lake Fenton Public Schools board meeting on Jan. 9. Lake Fenton Schools leadership, fellow teachers, students, friends and family were all in attendance. Superintendent Julie Williams introduced the award, praising Ramirez for her courageous action.

“We work hard to make sure our staff are trained and ready to act in emergencies, and we could not be prouder that we can now honor a teacher who saved the life of one of our students,” Williams said.

There were tears and laughter as Ramirez realized that it was her act of heroism that Williams was introducing. Becky Gaskin, Executive Director for the East Central Bay Chapter of the Red Cross Michigan Region, said she wanted it to be a surprise because Ramirez is always doing kind things for others without taking credit. Gaskin, whose children were taught by Ramirez, told her friend before the meeting that she was presenting about the Red Cross, but not that she was giving her an award.

“I wanted her to know how special this was, and just how special she is,” Gaskin said.

Gaskin was joined by Red Cross East Central Bay Board member Deborah Anderson, who helped to present Ramirez with a certificate and pin. Gaskin praised the quick thinking and bravery of Ramirez when her student was in distress.

Lifesaving Awardee Carlee Ramirez with Red Cross East Central Bay (ECB) Chapter Executive Director Becky Gaskin (Left) and ECB Chapter Board Member Deborah Anderson

“In my experience with the American Red Cross, I’ve learned that heroes are all around us. It is our hope that Carlee’s heroic actions inspire others to get trained in skills that save lives,” Gaskin said.

There is one small thing that Ramirez says has changed in her classroom since the emergency.

“The kids were great that day, but certain candy suckers aren’t allowed in my classroom anymore,” Ramirez laughed.

The American Red Cross Lifesaving Awards date back to 1911 and are about providing recognition to those who in a time of an emergency use their lifesaving skills or knowledge to save or sustain a life.

Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency. A variety of online, hybrid and classroom courses are available online at redcross.org/training.

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