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School employees honored for responding to choking episode

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By Matthew Sockol
Staff Writer

FREEHOLD – Two staff members in the Freehold Borough K-8 School District have been recognized for their role in quickly coming to the aid of a child in distress.

On Dec. 12, Park Avenue Elementary School staff members Michelle Gulya and Linda McCarthy were honored by the Board of Education for providing aid to a first grade boy while the child was choking on food in the school cafeteria.

Gulya is a teacher assistant who has worked in the district since 2013 and McCarthy is a special education instructor who has worked in the district for 30 years.

Both staff members were on duty in the cafeteria when the incident occurred on Dec. 5, according to district administrators. Gulya stopped the boy from choking by performing the Heimlich maneuver and McCarthy had the school’s medical response team contacted for additional aid.

According to McCarthy, the boy began choking while he was eating a cookie. After Gulya observed that he was not making any sound, she performed the Heimlich maneuver while McCarthy went to call for assistance.

Once the boy became responsive, he was escorted to the school’s medical office and McCarthy had staff members in the main office notify the medical response team and the administration that there was a medical emergency.

The child was examined by nurse Marta Horvath, nurse Sue Scalgione, Principal Patrick Mulhern and other administrators and medical team members.

“Any staff member would have responded in a similar fashion, however, it is very nice to be recognized by the Board of Education for the dedication that is evident with all Freehold Borough staff members,” McCarthy said.

The women received plaques from the board in recognition of their actions.

“I feel very privileged to honor (the) recipients,” board President Michael Lichardi said. “As a medical professional, I have seen heroism in action in saving lives. It is impressive, that form. But to see that form of heroism in this room is especially impressive. Rarely are we given the opportunity to act heroically and act in such exemplary fashion.

“It was recently said that the word ‘hero’ is a bit overused these days, but I must say that in this circumstance the word ‘hero’ is not unassigned. This is heroism in its truest form, to prevent the almost unthinkable from occurring. Acting in such exemplary fashion is just truly amazing,” Lichardi said.

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