Fortville Elementary School teacher performs Heimlich maneuver, saves student’s life

FORTVILLE, Ind.-- A Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation teacher saved the life of a student by performing the Heimlich maneuver.

On Wednesday, a third grade teacher at Fortville Elementary School was bringing her class back from lunch. They stopped in the hallway to allow others to catch up. That's when Amy Hoeppner noticed a student, Abram Witten, was standing next to her appearing distressed with his hands around his throat. She remembered he had been chewing on a piece of celery when they left the cafeteria.

Witten was unable to speak, and made choking sounds.

"Right at that second, I could not breathe out of my nose," Witten said. "I could not breathe in."

Hoeppner performed the Heimlich maneuver and the obstruction was expelled from the student's throat.

They went to the school nurse to make sure everything was OK, and Witten eventually went back to class after speaking to his mother by phone.

"I'm glad she reacted that well under pressure. I don't think he understood how traumatic it was; he just resumed his normal day. It's a good thing she acted the way she did and he came home in one piece," said Serenity Turner, the boy's mother.

Hoeppner said after it was over, the incident amazed her.

"Someone asked me how I knew where to put my hands. Honestly, you don't have to think about the exact textbook example; you just do it because you know what you are supposed to do - even if it's not perfect. What is perfect is the way it works. It worked exactly as we are told that it should," she said.

Hoeppner had Heimlich training in college and has had several courses since then. Upon hire, Mt. Vernon teachers need to show proof of CPR certification.

"This might just be a call to parents and just anyone - this is a valuable skill to know," Hoeppner said.

She credits her maternal instincts for her ability to act during the tense situation.

"I have four kids," Hoeppner said. "So, kids are what I do."