School Employee Saves Student and Receives Lifesaving Award from American Red Cross



Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Josh Cote 

Naval Air Station Sigonella  

What started as a normal day at Sigonella Elementary School (SES) quickly took a terrifying turn.

As students ate their lunch in the SES cafeteria, one child began to choke. Luckily, Marcila Chatman, a nearby employee at the school, sprang into action and saved the day.

Chatman was awarded the American Red Cross (ARC) Lifesaving Award for her bravery and action. This is one of the highest honors given by the ARC to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.

The certificate bears the signature of the President and CEO of the ARC, as well as the signature of the chairman of the ARC.

Karen Jorgenson, the American Red Cross Regional Program Manager, and Courtney Schonffeldt, SES principal presented the award to Chatman June 11.

In addition to being the principal of the school, Schonffeldt also just happens to be the mother of the young girl who was saved that day.

Life-threatening accidents can happen to anyone, which is why it is important to have well-trained staff.

“I was in the middle of lunch room duty,” said Chatman. “While I was there watching, I noticed one of the kids was struggling and grabbing at her neck. At that point, she was starting to turn a little red and trying to cough. I ran over there knowing what was happening, especially after the color change. At that point I started doing back thrusts, but nothing was coming ou,t and she stopped coughing for a couple of seconds. So that’s when I immediately started doing the abdominal thrusts.”

Witnessing an event like this take place can be scary, but the main thing to do is to keep calm and remember your training.

“I never knew I would be put in a situation like this,” said Chatman. “I was just trying to calmly get everything together, and I remembered my training: as long as I see [whatever is stuck in her throat] come out and I get her coughing, then I know there is some air coming in.”

Because of Chatman’s quick thinking, training, and presence of mind, the obstruction was dislodged and the student began to breathe again.

“I am just glad that she safe; that is my main concern,” said Chatman. “I don’t feel like a hero or anything. I am just glad that I was trained to make sure that in that situation I knew what to do.”

The Lifesaving Award was first given in 1911. Since then, thousands of certificates have been awarded to individuals who saved or have sustained someone’s life as a direct result of American Red Cross Training Services instruction.

If you or someone you know would like to take an American Red Cross Life saving class, they have started back up at the ARC here on base. You can find more information on their Facebook page or by calling 624-4900

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