Two staff members were recently honored as “heroes” at Avalon Gardens Elementary School for taking actions that may have saved a student’s life.
School nurse Angela Naidu and plant manager Darnell Fuzee were celebrated during a special ceremony for helping a student who could not breathe. They were presented with a certificate from Los Angeles Unified, and from U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, for their courage.
“I am thankful for Mr. Fuzee, and Ms. Naidu for stepping up and preventing a tragedy,” said Los Angeles School Board President Dr. Richard Vladovic, whose district represents Avalon. “The quick reaction of the plant manager and the school nurse save the life of a second grade boy. This is a heroic example of the everyday commitment of Los Angeles Unified’s staff to our kids.”
Principal Michael Pile, who oversaw what could have been a tragedy in only his second day at the school, was grateful for the student’s health, and for his staff’s quick response.
“I know as a principal, I’m so proud of them,” Pile said of Naidu and Fuzee. “Knowing I can count on people to take care of children means the world to me. It makes me feel more secure as a principal that we have those who can respond, and didn’t think twice about it.”
On Wednesday, second-grade students were eating in the outdoor lunch area. Suddenly, a boy started choking on pepperoni pizza. Fuzee, who was making sure students threw away their trash, stood about 15 steps away. He reacted quickly.
Fuzee stood behind the student, and wrapped his arms around the boy, who was bent over but still standing on his feet. Fuzee applied strong pressure on the student’s abdomen by pulling tightly. This method, known as the Heimlich maneuver, expels air from a person’s lungs and can clear their airway.
But the student still gasped for air, his face turning blue. Someone alerted Naidu, who was treating a diabetic student in her office a couple of buildings away, and called the paramedics.
Naidu found the pizza crust lodged deep into the boy’s throat. She slapped the student’s back—between his shoulder blades—several times until his windpipe cleared, allowing him to breathe again.
Paramedics arrived a short time later, finding him in good condition, and took him to the hospital as a precaution. He returned to school the next day.
“Thankfully, the outcome was good,” Naidu said with a smile, after the ceremony ended. It was the first time since joining Los Angeles Unified as a registered nurse two years ago that she treated a choking student.
“We were shaken up—it was a scary moment,” Naidu said. “But we’re so glad that it ended on a positive note. I’m thankful that our team worked together, and thought fast on our feet.”
Fuzee, recalling what could have been a tragedy said, “I did what any other adult would have done. I’m glad I was able to assist. I was just trying to be helpful.”
Their noble acts stuck in everyone’s minds. The school placed their portraits on a wall.
Fuzee’s picture appeared beneath a Superman crest, and a banner that read: “Mr. Fuzee, Thank you for your heroism.”
Naidu’s portrait appeared next to a Wonder Woman logo, and a sign that read: “To the world you are a nurse. To us, you are a hero.”