PRENTER – Boone County Schools bus driver Pam Buffington said when she saw 7-year-old Ryleigh Trail walking up the isle on the school bus while she was driving down the road she knew something was wrong.
“Ryleigh is a good girl and always stays in her seat, so when I saw her coming toward the front of the bus patting on her throat I knew something was wrong,” Buffington said.
Ryleigh was beginning to vomit and barely got out the word “candy.”
“That’s when I knew she had a piece of candy stuck in her throat,” Buffington said.
The incident happened around 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 25, 2012. Buffington was taking the children home after an “early out” at the school.
“I have been driving a school bus full-time for about five years and nothing like this has ever happened,” she said.
Buffington didn’t panic.
“We have been trained very well by the school system and I guess all that training just kicked in,” she said.
Buffington pulled the bus over to the side of the road, secured the bus with the help of her aide Paula Hunter and then began performing the “Heimlich maneuver” to attempt to dislodge the stuck candy from the little girl’s throat.
The Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) is a three-step emergency response technique that can save a life in seconds. It is a simple action that will often dislodge food or another object from a person's airway when they are choking, as it provides an increase in pressure in the abdomen and chest, enabling the object to be expelled. The onset of choking will often be sudden, and knowing how to do it properly and being willing to use that knowledge can save someone’s life.
“She threw up a couple of times and on the third try the candy just flew out of her mouth,” Buffington said. “I then gave her a drink of water and she said she was fine.”
Buffington said after the incident she started to think of how bad the situation could have been, but a calm Ryleigh helped her to remain calm.
“I told her family what happened and then went on with my bus run,” she said.
Ryleigh’s mother, Melinda Trail, said she was terrified to hear of her daughter choking.
“I feel like Pam Buffington saved our child’s life and there not enough words or things we can do to thank her for what she did,” Melinda Trail said. “I just don’t know if anyone else would have done what she did or not panicked. I am so thankful for the training she had and it has made me think I should probably get some CPR training as well because this could happen to anyone at any time. You could be in your car, at the store or at home. I would encourage everyone to get CPR training.”
Buffington said the training she received from Boone County Schools was what prepared her for this type of situation.
“I am so thankful for the great training I received,” she said. “It paid off big time in this situation.”