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Lincoln employees save choking student
Autumn Weingrad and Libbie Merritt recognized by school board
Lincoln Elementary Principal Misty Straub presents Great Bend USD 428’s ROSE Awards, Recognizing Outstanding Service to Education, to teaching assistant Autumn Weingrad, center, and school nurse Libbie Merritt, at right. Both were recognized Monday for their quick action to help a choking student in April. - photo by Susan Thacker / Great Bend Tribune

During a recent lunch period at Lincoln Elementary School, a boy choked on a chicken nugget. Quick action by a teaching assistant and the school nurse saved his life, Lincoln Principal Misty Straub told the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education on Monday.

Straub presented ROSE Awards – Recognizing Outstanding Service to Education – to teaching assistant Autumn Weingrad and school nurse Libbie Merritt.

She described the April 27 incident. It was only the second time in her career that she recalled a student choking to the point of needing assistance.

The principal had walked through the lunchroom earlier, monitoring the students. Then Weingrad walked past a boy who appeared to be upset. She turned back to check on him again and noticed he was wasn’t upset or angry as she first thought – he was choking.

“She used her quick thinking and some of her previous training to assess him very quickly, and she was checking to see if he was breathing,” Straub said. At that time the student regurgitated some food but Weingrad could tell he was still in distress as she quickly walked him to the office.

School nurse Merritt splits her time between Lincoln and Eisenhower schools. Luckily, she was at Lincoln that day, Straub said.

“She was able to take care of the situation. However, it didn’t end there. He rechoked on the chicken nugget; it didn’t leave his mouth. And while she was trying to call his mom to let her know about the situation, he started to go into significant distress where Libbie had to perform a lifesaving measure.”

Standing with Weingrad and Merritt before the school board Monday, Straub praised them both.

“Autumn, I’m so proud of you. You took the time to notice there was a situation that we thought was minor and it turned into something big – and you used your knowledge to help him and get him to our school nurse, who could perform the Heimlich maneuver. I’m very proud of these two ladies and what they did to save one of our students.”