Belmont teen saves dad with 'Heimlich' learned at school

BELMONT — A second helping of dinner proved a dangerous move for a Lakewood Drive man on Saturday night, as he began choking on a piece of pot roast. Fortunately for him, his son heard his distress and rushed to his aid, employing the Heimlich maneuver he had learned earlier this year as a Belmont Middle School student.
Eighth grader Kaleb Hibbard said he learned what to do when someone is choking in September, as a student in Life Skills teacher Linda Farrell's class. He figured he'd likely never have to use the skill but as a motivated student who often makes honor roll, he said he focused on the lesson. "I just pay attention for the most part."
Everett Bickford, Hibbard's dad, is glad he does. On Saturday evening, after Hibbard's mother Jeanne Hibbard-Bickford left to run some evening errands, Bickford added an extra piece of pot roast to his plate and retired to the computer room, while Hibbard sat in the living room, watching Louisville battle Wichita State for a chance to play in the men's NCAA basketball championship game.
"I guess I took in more than I could chew," said Bickford, explaining that a chunk of beef became lodged in his throat. He couldn't cough it up, and a few sips of soda didn't help, either. "Then I couldn't breathe," he said.
"I heard the coughing. At first I thought nothing of it," recalled Hibbard. He thought the coughing was from "Angel," the family dog. When he heard his dad banging on the desk, though, he knew something was wrong.
Still, he didn't know how much trouble Bickford was in until he asked the teenager to dial 9-1-1. As soon as he placed the call, Hibbard's mind immediately thought of the lesson he learned more than six months prior in the Life Skills class.
"I put the phone down and did the Heimlich," said Hibbard.
"He's pretty strong, he did it good," said Bickford, reporting that the chunk of food became dislodged within the first two thrusts to his abdomen. Thanks to Hibbard's quick actions, the danger was averted long before paramedics even had enough time to leave the station.
Bob Laraway, lieutenant for the Belmont Fire Department, was part of the crew that responded to the emergency call — it's common industry practice for police and paramedics to respond even when the caller reports that everything's fine. He said that Hibbard's actions were life-saving.
"We're very glad that he didn't hesitate, he did the right thing at the right time. He kept a presence of mind that is commendable for a 14 year-old." When someone's choking, Laraway continued, "Time is of the essence. If someone is truly choking, he's going to be oxygen deprived within three or four minutes," he said, adding that there are many parts of town that emergency personnel will require 10 minutes to reach.
"It makes a huge difference when someone steps up and does the right thing." Laraway said that members of the public who are interested in learning life-saving skills could look to the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or call the Belmont Fire Department for information about classes.
Farrell, the Life Skills teacher, didn't always teach these skills in her class. She started a few years ago when a student in her class began to choke on food. "The kids were all laughing about it, and I was really upset." So, she decided to teach her students how serious choking can be, and what they should do if someone around them finds themselves unable to breathe.
Farrell plans to retire from teaching at the end of this school year. She heard about Hibbard's actions when his mother called her to thank Farrell for teaching him the life-saving skill. "It's just amazing. He's a wonderful kid... He's a great student, I really enjoyed having him in class, I'm really happy for him and his family."
"I'm just glad I saved him," said Hibbard, who said he went back to watching the basketball game on Saturday night once the excitement had ebbed.
"I'm just glad he was paying attention in school that day," said Bickford.
"I'm very proud of him for stepping up and not panicking. He's a good kid. I'm thrilled that he did what he did," said Hibbard-Bickford.

Kaleb Hibbard, shown here at center, saved his father Everett Bickford from choking by using a technique he learned as an eighth grader at Belmont Middle School. Bickford is shown at left, also pictured are Hibbard's mother, Jeanne Hibbard-Bickford, and the family dog "Angel." (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)