Teacher’s aide saves choking special needs student

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's no secret teachers play a big role in students' lives.

Some even save students’ lives.

Nineteen-year-old Marlena Davis was eating lunch inside her school’s cafeteria last Wednesday when she started choking on a meatball.

Her teacher’s aide sprang into action before things got worse.

“This is my first time here, and I love working here, honestly,” said Taylor Byrd.

An ordinary day at school became extraordinary when Byrd helped save Marlena’s life.

“Emergency response first aid is very important to learn, even if you don’t think you’ll be able to use it,” Byrd said.

When Davis couldn’t breathe, Byrd said she raced to her side to help. “All I heard was one student say that she was choking, and my body basically went on autopilot.”

Byrd says she did a lifesaving move she learned many years ago.

“For me, I was trained when I was 13 how to do the Heimlich maneuver with the Red Cross boot, and basically it just stuck with me, and I was just in the right place and time for her,” Byrd explained.

It's a skill the principal of Alden Road Exceptional Elementary School is grateful she knew.

“You put your hands together like this and put it right underneath the ribcage and do it inward and an upward thrust, Byrd said.

Davis is grateful, too.

“She was afraid of eating for two days, but she learned her lesson,” said Byrd.

The school community called her a hero, but Byrd said she was just doing the right thing.

Byrd said she hopes the incident will inspire more teachers to learn first aid.

According to the American Heart Association, it is not required for Florida teachers to learn first aid, but the school district offers courses for faculty members periodically.