Student Saves Friend’s Life During Lunch

7th graders Luciana Kolat and Jenna Omar have been friends since they were four years old. Their bond is solid, even more so now after Jenna saved Luciana’s life during lunch. 

The incident happened on Friday, September 22 in the Brookfield school’s cafeteria. Luciana started choking on a piece of breaded shrimp she brought from home and couldn’t breathe. “I stuck my hand down my throat to see if I could pull it out,” Luciana recalls. “But that didn’t work, the shrimp went farther down. I started to go numb and couldn’t feel my hands. I started gagging and that’s when I stood up and put my hands towards my throat to see if I could get help.”

Jenna, who was sitting across the lunch table, thought her friend was joking around at first, but once Luciana’s face started to turn red, then blue, her hands started shaking, and she put her hands up to her throat in the choking sign, she sprang over to help. “At first I tried patting her on the back,” Jenna says. “That didn’t work and she was gagging so I brought the trash can over to her just in case she got sick. I wasn’t really sure what to do - if I should send someone for help or go get someone to help, but once she [Luciana] tried to lay (sic) down, I decided I had to act. So I kept her standing and that’s when I gave her the Heimlich. I gave her one big push and everything came out.”

Brookfield Middle School Principal Craig Boles is one of several adults who supervises the more than 300 students in the cafeteria during lunch. "Lunch is always a loud and busy time of the day, but I did notice that Luciana and Jenna had something going on at their table. By the time I got over to them from my position in the cafeteria, the incident was over. The girls explained what happened and I immediately took them to the office for evaluation."

The entire incident lasted less than 30 seconds, but both girls say it seemed like minutes. “I felt helpless and was convinced I was going to die because no one was coming to help me and I needed help,” Luciana says. “My mom always told me if you’re choking, you have to show people you’re choking, and I did all I could think of at that moment. Not being able to breathe is the worst feeling in the world. I was worried it was too late when Jenna came over, but had she not, I’m convinced I would have died.”

As it turns out, Jenna was actually supposed to miss lunch that day because of a doctor’s appointment. At the last minute, the appointment got canceled… it was a revelation Jenna shared with Luciana for the first time during our conversation. “Thank God it was canceled,” Luciana said in disbelief. “Had you not been there…” “But I was there, so that’s all that matters,” Jenna finished.

While it’s not something either girl would like to experience ever again, both say they hope this incident encourages students to take Heimlich and CPR training and take them both seriously. While the State of Ohio requires all high school students to be trained in both maneuvers before graduation, there’s currently no requirement for younger students, and both Jenna and Luciana say that should change. “Students our age should know how to do the Heimlich,” Jenna says. “I’m lucky, my mom decided to teach me how to do this [Heimlich] when my brother was getting trained. At the time I didn't see the point and never thought I'd need it. But I did.”

“This is a teachable moment for all of us,” Boles says. “We need to find a way to implement basic first aid training and teach students more about the signs of distress in situations like this so we can all be ready, just in case.”

Following the incident, the school nurse checked Luciana, and other than some anxiety, a sore throat, and some dizziness there were no other health concerns. After a quick call to her parents and resting in the clinic, Luciana decided to stay at school and went back to class. “I got so many hugs and so many ‘we’re so glad you’re alive’ comments after that,” she says. “Before this, I don’t know that I would have been brave enough to do what Jenna did, but I know I am now and will never hesitate to help someone in trouble.”

Luciana says she will be forever grateful to her best friend and has no plans to eat shrimp again anytime soon.

We are all so proud of both of you for your courage and bravery!
Print This Article
View text-based website