A high school cheerleader has become a hometown hero after she sprang into action during a homecoming parade to save a choking toddler.
17-year-old Tyra Winters, a senior at Rockwall High School in Rockwall, Texas, was aboard a homecoming parade float with her cheerleading squad and football team when she heard people whispering that a child in the crowd was choking.
She immediately spotted a two-year-old whose face was "super, super red," jumped off the float and ran over to him to perform the Heimlich maneuver. "At this point, he’s kind of turning purple," she said. "I picked him up and then I tilted him downwards and gave him two or three back thrusts. He then was spitting everything up."
Nicole Hornback, the boy’s mother, told ABC News that she had unsuccessfully attempted to perform the Heimlich on her son Clarke. “I was sitting right next to him. I just happened to look over. There was no noise, no coughing, no breathing,” Hornback said. "I just literally was holding him out and just running through the crowd trying to hand him off to anyone."
The mother says Winters was "very brave" for reacting so quickly and taking a child’s life in her hands. “She saved my baby,” Hornback said. “I commend her for being a teenager and being trained.” Winters met with Hornback and her son this week, but Clarke couldn’t remember the girl who saved his life.
"It’s hard for him because he’s so young," his mother said. "He doesn’t even remember what he ate for breakfast."
Winters says her mother, who runs a group home for foster children, taught her how to perform the Heimlich maneuver as well as CPR a few years ago. "I knew exactly what to do from that point on," she said. The high school senior is planning on becoming a pediatric surgeon in the future.
The school district and the community have praised Winters for her courage and empathy. "I know they're calling me the town hero," Winters said. "It's super exciting to own that title. But, most importantly, I'm just glad the boy is OK."
Saint Luke's Health System says that to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a child, ages one to twelve, they should be placed on their back. Meanwhile, the person performing the maneuver should kneel in front of them, place the heel of their hand in the middle of the child’s body between the navel and ribs, place their free hand on top of the other and use moderate but firm pressure to give 6 to 10 rapid thrusts upward and inward. As the maneuver is being performed, 911 should be called in case the child should need further assistance.
Experts recommend acting as quickly as possible since a blocked airway can have serious consequences. Choking can prevent the flow of air and cut off oxygen to the brain, which can cause permanent brain damage or even death.