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'Hurry, he's turning blue': Officer, school nurse and student save choking middle schooler's life

It took a group effort to save Ethan Hamrick in a sudden severe emergency.
Credit: Bartow County Schools
Officer Duane Smith, left, and 11-year-old Ethan Hamrick

BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. — School officials in Bartow County are crediting the quick actions of a school resource officer and the continued treatment of a school nurse with saving a child's life. 

But, if it weren't for one quick-thinking friend, neither may have reached the little boy in time.

Officials with the Bartow County School District said they were first alerted to it by four words spoken over a two-way radio: "Hurry, he's turning blue."

Sparing no time, school resource officer Duane Smith ran to the cafeteria of Red Top Middle School and began performing the Heimlich maneuver on 11-year-old Ethan Hamrick. The child had gotten a water bottle cap stuck in his throat and it was blocking his airway.

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Smith was working fast, but he was also cognizant of the actions he was taking and knew doing the wrong thing could make matters much worse.

"I knew if I thrust him on the back, there was a possibility that the cap could have moved further down and not up," Officer Smith said. "So, I performed about 14 abdominal thrusts and I believe that turned the cap sideways, allowing him to breathe a little."

Getting air flowing again was an important step. But there was more left to do if they were going to save Ethan from this dangerous predicament.

But head nurse Annette Lively was also on the scene performing various life-saving measures as an ambulance made its way to the school. Teamwork eventually led to the cap breaking free. Ethan was treated and released from a local hospital.

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Those that were there said that without Officer Smith doing the right thing at the right time, the situation could have had a much more tragic ending.

"It would have been a horrible situation," Red Top Middle School paraprofessional Walt Pittman said.

Officer Smith was commended for his actions by the school superintendent as well as the campus police chief Randall Burch who recommended that he receive a reward for the day.

"Officer Smith, as most police officers, does not cater to attention," Burch said. "However, sometimes in the performance of one's duty, it requires attention."

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Smith teared up as he relived those moments later in the day - now knowing that the child he fought to save was OK.

"I'm just glad Ethan will recover and be back in class Thursday," he said. "I wasn't even supposed to be there that day, but I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time."

But there was also yet another hero in this story that, like Officer Smith, didn't intend to receive recognition for his actions. And had he not moved quickly, officer Smith and nurse Lively may have not made it in time.

Credit: Bartow County Schools
Rudra Parmar

It was actually Ethan's friend Rudra Parmar who first noticed something was wrong. A statement from the school system said that Rudra was eating lunch with Ethan when he noticed his friend went from laughing to choking.

The sixth-grader ran to a teacher and officer Smith when the boy began gasping for air.  Rudra apparently even went home to tell his parents about the incident but never mentioned the important role he played.

So school officials took it on themselves to make sure they were aware.

"Administrators made a house call to inform them that the Bartow County School System is proud of their intelligent, intuitive son.


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