Kutztown Heroes: student and staffer save Kutztown middle schooler's life

Patriot photo by Lisa Mitchell Kutztown Middle School Hero on the Hill Award presented to eighth grader Billy Gow, left, for his actions that led to saving a student's life. On right is KMS Principal Jim Brown.

A Kutztown student’s actions led to saving the life of a fellow student who was choking.

“Billy Gow came to his rescue, kept calm and notified Leon Smith, our cafeteria monitor and Leon performed the Heimlich Maneuver,” said Kutztown Middle School Principal Jim Brown.

In front of the Kutztown School Board during a recent meeting, Brown presented Hero on the Hill awards to Gow, an eighth grader, and to Smith.

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“To Mr. Billy Gow for his clear headedness under pressure, and to Leon Smith for his clear headedness in doing the right thing,” said Brown, presenting the awards to a standing ovation.

“Thank you for your efforts in responding,” said Kutztown School Board President Carl Ziegler.

Brown explained that KMS started the Hero on the Hill Award a few years ago.

“It goes to people who do the right thing, the right thing may be helping a student in need or it might be doing something heroic,” said Brown. “And in this case, it was actually doing something heroic and saving the life of a student.”

A KMS student was eating his lunch and began choking.

“Everybody at the table ignored him, thought he was fooling around, except one young who kept a clear head, Mr. Billy Gow, and notified the staff on duty,” said Brown.

Gow told Leon Smith that one of the student’s was choking. Smith performed the Heimlich Maneuver and saved the student’s life.

Smith, who began serving as a cafeteria monitor at the beginning of the school year, said that when he approached the student in distress, he asked if he could breathe, and the student shook his head no.

“I got behind him and started compressions and some food flew out of his mouth,” said Smith, noting it was chicken the student had been choking on. “As it worked out, instinct just kicked in.”

When asked how he felt about what happened, Smith said that right after he felt fine.

“But about an hour later, the emotions started kicking in,” said Smith, a Maxatawny Township resident. “I was just glad that I could help.”

Smith said his First Aid training was in 1970, “about six months before I got out of the service.”

Through the district, he will be taking training in First Aid, CPR and AED this spring, he wants to be up to date in his training.

Students will also be receiving some education.

“It all ended well, but because of that we’re going to initiate some training of all students on the dangers of choking,” Brown said.