BURLINGTON, Ky. — In a cafeteria full of students, only 10-year-old Devin Winstel knew what to do when he realized one of his classmates had begun to choke. According to his teacher, Winstel’s speedy application of the Heimlich maneuver likely saved the other boy's life.
The Burlington Elementary School fourth-grader didn’t want attention afterward, he said Monday. His mother, Sarah Thompson, only learned about the incident when she saw the teacher’s note in his planner: "Devin was a hero today."
“Why were you a hero today?” she asked him.
“I was being a nice kid to somebody,” he replied.
It took an email to his teacher to learn the full extent of her son’s quick thinking and kindness.
Winstel didn’t feel like a hero when it happened, he said. He felt scared. The classmate began to choke right while he was talking to another friend; as the pair exchanged panicked glances, Winstel realized his friend was too shocked to move.
Their nearby classmates were either frozen or confused, wondering whether the episode was a joke.
It would have to be him.
“I felt like I wasn’t going to save a kid today,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, God, what am I going to do?’ (But) I just did it. At the end, I was just shook.”
And the choking boy was OK. The group went back to class for an after-lunch reading lesson, and Winstel silently signaled across the room to ensure his classmate was well.
Winstel received the Eagle Eye, Burlington Elementary’s highest student award, for his efforts.
“I’ve never been more proud of him, ever,” his mother said. “He’s such a great kid all the time, but to know he was able to step up in such a stressful time and to help out a child in need without thinking twice of doing it, it makes my heart so big.”
Winstel himself said he hopes the incident will encourage other students to learn the Heimlich maneuver.
“I want people to know that,” he said. “Maybe some of my friends in my class know how to do it now. I think the only two people was me and my friend.”