The holiday season is a time to reflect on our true blessings. This year, no one knows that better than Mercedes Rivera.
The long-time cafeteria worker at New Britain’s Holmes School was saved this fall by the timely actions of a co-worker, Jessica Maldanado.
While overlooking students recycling their trays, Ms. Maldanado noticed her colleague struggling and rushed to her.
“She was just standing there holding her throat. She was already turning colors. I just ran to her and pounded her on the back, but something told me that wasn’t going to work,” said Ms. Maldanado.
“I did the Heimlich maneuver and a small piece of food came up, but she was still struggling, so I did it again and some more chicken came up.”
Looking back at her swift response, Ms. Maldanado said, “I just did what I had to do. We were trained by the nurse. I actually got her to breathe then the nurse rushed into the cafeteria.”
The nurse, Marianne Kupiec who is in her 18th year at the school, had already played an equally important role. She provided the staff training in the Heimlich maneuver before the start of the school year.
“Every year before school starts, at the staff meeting I do my little talk with them and go over Heimlich maneuver. I have them practice it with each other so they feel comfortable,” said Ms. Kupiec.
In addition, she reviews procedures regarding student allergies and the use of a defibulator.
‘You never know what type of situation you’re going to face between the students, the staff, it could be a bus driver or the young child of a visiting parent,” Ms. Kupiec added. During the school year she also provides trainings in CPR and the defibulator usage.
When Ms. Kupiec got to Ms. Rivera, “she was breathing, but she was very anxious and her throat was very sore.”
Principal Glen Porter in his eighth year at Holmes School said the incident validates the training his staff receives each year. “The training absolutely made a difference. Almost every year there is a similar incident and it’s usually the lunch aides who step up – usually to save a student.
“Ms. Rivera has been here much longer than I have. She’s wonderful with the kids,” said Porter.
Having sat through many of those sessions in her more than 18 years at the school, Ms. Rivera said that he never expected to be the one being saved. Ironically, it was a newcomer who saved her as Ms. Maldanado just started at the school in last April.
Ms. Maldanado was recognized by the New Britain Board of Education during a recent ceremony at New Britain High School where she received a standing ovation.
As for Ms. Rivera she said, “I feel blessed. Who knows what could have happened?”
Pleased to still be on the job, she said, “the kids mean the world to me. I love to work with them
“I’m just glad I’m still here. I just thankful that I’m alive.”