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CPHHS teacher’s quick thinking saves 4-year-old student’s life

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CPHHS Child Development Center Assistant Teacher Chantel Fairbanks, pictured above, saved a 4-year-old student’s life by successfully performing the Heimlich maneuver.

A College of Public Health and Human Sciences’ teacher is being hailed as a hero by the family of a 4-year-old boy whose life she saved.

CPHHS’ Child Development Center Assistant Teacher Chantel Fairbanks recently jumped into action when she noticed Tommy Dunn was choking during their morning lunch break.

“Tommy had just taken a bite of his cornbread muffin when I looked up and saw that he had his two middle fingers in his mouth and had started to change color to a blueish purple,” Chantel says.

She instantly went to him and noticed his fingers were still down his throat and that he wasn’t able to respond verbally.

“I immediately pulled him out from the table, put one hand over his chest so I wouldn’t hit the table and then started doing the Heimlich maneuver,” she says. “It sounds like it took a long time, but it all happened in the blink of an eye.”

Bates Hall

The CPHHS’ Child Development Center is located in Bates Hall, pictured above.

“This is nothing less than a fireman saving someone from a burning building or a soldier doing their job when they are called to duty,” says Tommy’s mother, Jessica, who is an executive officer in the military. “She is a teacher, and when faced with a stressful situation she did what she was trained to do – and very well. She made the right decision, and because of it a life was saved. She should be proud of herself and confident in her abilities.”

Jessica says Tommy is doing fine with no physical issues. He mentions the incident when he coughs or has problems with his food, but is thankful for the teacher who saved him.

“I will never see her, Chantel, as anything less than our family hero,” Jessica says. “What she did – save my child – is everything to me.”

All teachers in the Child Development Center (CDC) are required to complete first aid and CPR training through the American Heart Association as part of their training at the CDC.

“You always hope you never have to use those life-saving skills, but in situations like this you are beyond thankful that you know how to perform them correctly,” says Chantel, who graduated from Oregon State with a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences and has worked at the CDC for a year.

And in this case, that training became second nature and is what saved a little boy’s life.

“I honestly don’t remember what was going through my mind, I just went into a mode and the only thing I remember thinking about was his safety,” Chantel says. “I am so happy that the young boy is safe and doing well, and I appreciate the gratitude his family has shown me.”

“You never know when you will be called to duty – at work, home or at the grocery store,” Jessica says. “We are interacting with people every day. People matter. You can make a difference. One person or one situation could change your life or theirs. For Chantel, she influences youth every day, and some days – saves them.”


About the Child Development Center:

The Child Development Center is housed in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Bates Hall on the Oregon State University Corvallis campus.

The center is dedicated to discovering and communicating knowledge that contributes to the optimal development and well-being of young children and their families. As part of Human Development and Family Sciences, the CDC prepares professionals in early childhood development and family services; generates and transmits knowledge on family-focused early childhood programs through research, program development, and evaluation; and provides a developmental program of the highest quality for young children and their families that serves as a resource for the community-at-large.