Co-Lin student saves life of school employee

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 26, 2000

&uot;She’s my guardian angel.&uot; That’s what Gail McGruder, of Natchez, now calls Trish Smith, also of Natchez.

McGruder, Student Center manager at Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez campus, said she took a bite of a biscuit at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when a piece became lodged in her windpipe.

&uot;I took a drink of coffee but the biscuit wouldn’t go down … and it wouldn’t come up,&uot; McGruder said.

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She was working in the back of the cafeteria at the time. She quickly became frightened. &uot;I’ve heard of other people in that situation, but I never had that happen to me before. It was frightening. If you can’t breathe, you can’t do anything,&uot; she said.

McGruder began to feel faint, but managed to walk out to the dining area. Carolyn Elveston, Student Center director and co-worker, noticed McGruder’s stress and recognized that she was choking. Elveston called out to the students to find out if any of them knew the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the biscuit.

Fortunately for McGruder, Smith was eating breakfast at the time.

&uot;The strange thing is I never eat breakfast in the cafeteria,&uot; Smith said. &uot;But today for some reason, I decided to eat breakfast here.&uot;

Smith also knew the Heimlich Maneuver. Other students were there, but did not know what to do, McGruder said. &uot;That’s the first thing our instructor, Miss (LaWanda) Doss taught us,&uot; said Smith, who is scheduled to graduate from the Licensed Practical Nursing program this July.

McGruder said that felt she was going to pass out and fall to the floor.

&uot;I just jumped up and quickly went around her and did the maneuver … just like we were taught. The Lord must have been guiding me because I was so nervous,&uot; Smith said.

McGruder’s windpipe was quickly cleared and she began to breathe again. &uot;I just thank the Lord she was here,&uot; said McGruder, who is a Co-Lin graduate and Hall of Fame inductee.

Smith shyly said, &uot;I feel so proud I could have helped. But I also had a lot of help from God.&uot;