Belmonte STEAM Academy educators call third-graders “heroes” for helping classmate who was choking on a carrot
Sylaas Vieira recalled a personally harrowing experience during a lunch break with his third grade friends at Belmonte STEAM Academy late last month. “It was a very scary moment for me,” the nine-year-old said in an interview this week, recalling how he began to panic after getting a carrot lodged in his throat. He was unable to communicate with his friends and feared for the worst.
“I couldn’t talk. I was just kind of holding onto my neck, trying to show I was choking … but I couldn’t talk at that moment,” Sylass said.
“I just knew that someone has to get it [the carrot] out or else I’m not going to wake up, probably,” he said.
Fortunately, for Sylaas, he had two friends from Meagan Killion’s third grade class who quickly knew what to do.
“He was putting his hands on his neck. I started to think he was trying to talk,” Heloysa Delima, 9, said as she noticed that Sylaas appeared to be crying.
“I jumped out of my seat and went to tell the teacher because I was worried that he was choking on a carrot,” she said.
Boy’s dad taught him lifesaving technique
Meanwhile, nine-year-old Yuzreef Yusuf remembered feeling “scared and confused.” He knew his friend had asthma and wondered whether he was having an asthma attack. Seeing Sylaas’ eyes well up with tears, though, convinced him that he was probably choking on food.
Yuzreef proceeded to slap Sylaas on the back, causing the carrot to shoot out of his friend’s mouth. He credits his dad – Fahad Salya, a driver for W.B. Mason – for teaching him a lifesaving technique a few years ago that would come in handy for occasions like this. “He was at work a lot and he wanted me to make sure I knew what to do at the right time,” Yuzreef said, referring to his father’s teaching.
“My dad works a lot and comes home at 7 o’clock at night. He wanted to be sure we were safe,” he said.
Killion, now in her second year as an educator with Saugus Public Schools – and five years of teaching overall – was impressed with the quick response by her students in a potential life and death situation. “They were heroes,” Killion declared.
“They did really good. They instantly reacted: [Heloysa] getting the teacher and [Yuzreef] using a lifesaving skill of hitting Sylaas on the back. We’re really proud of them for their quick action,” she said. “They pushed all of their fears aside. They were probably scared and confused, but they pushed their fears aside and knew what to do right away and helped Sylaas and essentially saved his life. I’m very proud of them.”
Sylaas and the two classmates who came to his rescue were good friends who hung out around school before the incident, but have become even better friends recently, according to their teacher.
“A teachable moment”
During a press conference arranged at the school on Wednesday morning (April 13), Killion commended Heloysa and Yuzreef for the way they responded under great pressure. “It takes a lot to immediately know what to do. A lot of people would kind of freeze and think ‘Oh, what do I have to do?’” Killion said.
“But you two knew right away exactly what to do, so you should feel very proud of yourselves for jumping in and saving him [Sylaas],” she said.
Killion said Heloysa and Yuzreef provided her class of 20 students “a teachable moment” on how kids can respond should they encounter similar emergency situations at school. “It’s definitely a great learning curve for these kids,” Killion said.
“Heloysa and Yuzreef are definitely role models. It’s sad that this had to happen. But I’m happy that they were able to help Sylaas the way they did,” she said.
Sylaas said he was amazed in particular by Yuzreef’s heroics. “It’s really awesome that someone could learn how to do that at such a young age,” Sylaas said.
“I thought it was only adults that taught other adults how to do that,” he said.
Jennifer Lefferts, the communications manager for Saugus Public Schools, said the heroic actions by the two young students have brought great honor to the school district. “I’m sure there will be plans in the works to recognize these heroes, who are certainly role models for other students,” Lefferts said.
“This incident comes on the heels of another student saving a classmate in the fall,” she said. (Please see related story)