Special Needs Transportation

School bus driver saves choking student

Posted on October 5, 2009

Here, Grant Reppert, director of transportation at Gwinnett County Public Schools, describes how one of the district’s drivers saved the life of a choking student. The description is from an application for a Georgia Association for Pupil Transportation valor award, which the driver won.

On Dec. 15, 2008, Dreana Trent was transporting her Norton Elementary School special-needs students home when one of them started choking on some hard candy.

Ms. Trent stopped the bus as quickly as she could in traffic and immediately went back to help. The student was not breathing. She immediately pulled him out of the seat and performed the Heimlich maneuver. This did not successfully revive the student.

Concurrently, she directed her student helper, Olamide Popolla, to radio to dispatch and explain the emergency. When the student did not start breathing in response to the Heimlich, Ms. Trent laid him on the floor in the aisle and performed CPR to revive the student.

During this time, she was also directing the student helper, who was on the radio with Carol Ann Zeppenfeld in our dispatch office. After repeated efforts with CPR, Ms. Trent was able to get the student breathing.

Ms. Trent, in anticipating the need for student assistance, had trained Mr. Popolla on radio procedures so he would be confident in what to do should the need arise. Ms. Trent’s quick response, training and emergency planning saved the life of that child.

Just a month prior to this incident, Ms. Trent and Ms. Zeppenfeld were renewing their CPR certification together. At that time, Ms. Trent told Ms. Zeppenfeld that she did not know if she could ever perform CPR in an actual emergency.

The student who talked on the radio, Mr. Popolla, was a new homeless student who was assigned to Ms. Trent’s bus route. Ms. Trent made an excellent decision to use him as her assistant in case of emergencies.

Ms. Trent was recognized by the American Red Cross for extraordinary personal action. In summary, Ms. Trent saved this child’s life right before the Christmas holidays, and I would like to nominate her for the Danny Hendricks Valor Award.

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