A Columbus school bus driver was honored this week for saving a student from choking.
Odis Hailstock, who has been a Muscogee County School District bus driver for nine years, was on his way to his first drop-off point April 26 when he noticed a third-grader choking on a piece of candy, according to the account MCSD communications director Valerie Fuller read during Monday night’s Muscogee County School Board meeting.
Hailstock pulled the bus over to a safe location, rushed to the student in the middle of the bus and performed the Heimlich maneuver, the method for forcing an object out of a choking person’s airway that involves holding the person around the waist from behind and using one hand over one fist to apply upward pressure with thrusts directly above the navel.
“As a result of his immediate response,” Fuller said, “the student was able to return to normal breathing. … Tonight, we want to recognize him and thank him for his quick action.”
MCSD transportation director Herbert Hill said, as he and assistant director Willie Brown presented Hailstock a certificate of appreciation, “Now, he’s no longer seen as a regular school bus driver. He’s seen as a school bus driver that really cares about the students, and that’s the most important thing about this job. … Thank you for your attention to detail, your dedication to service.”
The Ledger-Enquirer requested through Fuller an interview with Hailstock, but he declined, Fuller said. Fuller hasn’t responded to the L-E’s request to identify the third-grader’s school and gender.
MCSD attorney Greg Ellington of the law firm Hall Booth Smith denied the L-E’s request for a copy of the bus video that shows the incident. In an email Thursday, he cited the Georgia Open Records Act exemption that entitles the video to privacy protection because “any such video would capture an acute medical event experienced by a student and acute life-saving measures administered to that student.”
According to the National Safety Council, choking is the fourth-leading cause of unintentional injury death, killing 5,051 Americans in 2015.
A 2010 article at ScienceDaily.com, based on a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that one child dies every five days in the United States from choking on food.
A 2016 article at eMedicineHealth.com says, “When someone is choking with a completely blocked airway, no oxygen can enter the lungs. The brain is extremely sensitive to this lack of oxygen and begins to die within four to six minutes. It is during this time that first aid must take place. Irreversible brain death occurs in as little as 10 minutes.”
April 26 is the date of another life-saving event in MCSD. This one was at Hardaway High School, where a sophomore boy collapsed in the gym and suffered cardiac arrest. But he survived, thanks to Columbus police Cpl. Will Bassett, school nurse Dee Owens and health occupations teacher Natalie Kelly, who tag-teamed to resuscitate him before the ambulance arrived 12 minutes later. They also were honored at Monday’s board meeting.
The L-E published the Hardaway heroes story last week.