A fast-thinking Walla Walla High School senior used the Heimlich Maneuver to come to the assistance of her beloved teacher who was choking Thursday morning while teaching class. Senior Mariam Hart witnessed Fine Arts Teacher and Department Head Julie Laufenburg bent over and turning red in the face during her 3rd period Advanced Placement art class. Suddenly, Laufenburg stood up, grabbed her neck and in a raspy voice weakly asked for help. Hart soon realized her teacher was in trouble.
“I started to lose track of what was going on,” said Laufenburg, following the harrowing experience. “I was trying to get air, but couldn’t breathe. I definitely needed assistance.”
Hart, who is a Cadet Major in the school’s JROTC program quickly leaped up from her desk and let her training and instincts take over. She is CPR certified through the American Red Cross and has had extensive first aid training through the JROTC program. Although she is only 5’2” tall, Hart properly positioned her hands on her taller teacher’s chest and used several powerful thrusts to clear the airway.
“It was 15 seconds of intense adrenaline,” Hart said. “Something really bad could have happened, but because of being prepared, it didn’t go badly.”
Hart said she has tremendous respect and appreciation for Laufenburg and says she loves her hands-on approach to teaching and learning. Hart serves as the JROTC battalion's operations officer. Laufenburg said she was not surprised to see Hart step in to help.
“She has always demonstrated tremendous leadership skills,” Laufenburg said. “I’m so thankful she was there for me.”