Boy saves friend using Heimlich maneuver

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Sixth-grader Chase Matzen Rao was quick to act when his best friend made the international sign of choking and started to turn blue in the Southampton Intermediate School cafeteria last month. He saved his friend’s life with the Heimlich maneuver—and tonight, April 10, the Southampton Village Board and Police Department will recognize Chase for his admirable act.

“Rarely do we get to recognize anyone that young for their actions like that,” said Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley.

He certainly deserves the recognition, according to David Conklin, the grateful 12-year-old Chase saved. “We’ve known each other since kindergarten, and he’s always been there for me,” David said.

It happened in the school cafeteria on March 19. Chase said as soon as he recognized David was choking on a combination of pizza cheese and Gatorade, his only thought was to save his friend, using the Heimlich maneuver, which he learned in Scouts. It wasn’t until it was all over that Chase realized the significance of the act.

“After that, I was, like, ‘Whoa,'” he recalled. Looking back, Chase was concerned about how people would react if he wasn’t successful in using the Heimlich maneuver, but he said it was better to try than do nothing.

“Here at our school, we’re working really hard to encourage our students to be good citizens and look out for each other,” said Tim Frazier, the school principal.

The boys were sent to the nurse’s office and then to Mr. Frazier’s office. Word spread, and now, in addition to being honored by the village, the school will recognize him during the National Junior Honor Society induction assembly, and his mother, Lauren Matzen, is having him nominated for a Boy Scouts of America lifesaving award. In fact, knowing and demonstrating the Heimlich maneuver was one of the requirements Chase had to meet to become a Tenderfoot Scout in Southampton Troop 58.

Ms. Matzen is pushing for the intermediate school to make the maneuver part of the curriculum for all students, every year, in grades five through eight.

The Heimlich maneuver is taught to upperclassmen already in different courses, according to Mr. Frazier, and he agreed that it was important for all students to know it.

“There’s no reason not to know it,” said Chase’s assistant scoutmaster, Thom Speckenbach. “The Heimlich is one of the easiest procedures to learn, and it works.”

Mr. Speckenbach said he was not only impressed by how quickly and coolly Chase responded, but also by the fact that David, who is also a Troop 58 Scout, had the presence of mind to give the sign for choking. “It’s pretty quite amazing,” he said.

The principal said as much as the training is instilled in someone, it still takes a considerable amount of character to take action. “It was very obvious that he was very level-headed and reflective,” Mr. Frazier said of Chase.

Police Chief William Wilson Jr. echoed Mr. Speckenbach and Mr. Frazier’s comments.

“I was very impressed,” Chief Wilson said. “For somebody to be that calm under pressure at that age is pretty rare.” He said Chase did an admirable job, adding, “It’s a pleasure to recognize somebody who did something as quick and decisive as Chase did.”

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