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Morgan Hill
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May 22, 2022

Local Mom Becomes Hero

When Michele May volunteered for yard duty at P.A. Walsh
Elementary, she wasn’t expecting to be recognized as a hero. But
only on her third day on the job, May rushed to the rescue of a
sixth grader and saved her life.
When Michele May volunteered for yard duty at P.A. Walsh Elementary, she wasn’t expecting to be recognized as a hero. But only on her third day on the job, May rushed to the rescue of a sixth grader and saved her life.

May said she was in the cafeteria last Monday supervising the children during the noon hour, when a group of girls rushed to her and told her their classmate couldn’t breath.

“Three girls came running up to me saying, ‘She can’t breath, she can’t breathe!’ I got to the girl and saw she was choking. She was a pretty tall girl and I got her up from the bench and performed the Heimlic (maneuver) three or four times, until the girls cried out, ‘It came out!’” recounted May.

The student in trouble was Berenice Sylverain. May said she was choking on ribs she was eating for lunch.

“It was so surreal afterwards, I guess we were both in shock. We sat down, and she was crying and I was just in shock,” said May.

After, May took Berenice to health assistant, Liz Baraona, and they called her mom, Bernadette Sylverain, to inform her of what had happened.

May said news spread about her quick action and the next day, Berenice hugged and thanked her. Her mother also called to thank her.

Teachers and staff at the school have come up to May, calling her a “hero.”

May doesn’t see herself as a hero. Instead, she points to the group of girls led by Justina Piedra, who had the presence of mind to come to her quickly for help.

“The girls were so smart to come to me and do the right thing, to be responsible and make the right decision quickly. Time was of essence. They saved her life too,” said May.

May is glad she remembered to use the Heimlic maneuver, a series of under-the-diaphragm abdominal thrusts recommended for a person who is choking on a piece of food or a foreign object.

The Heimlich maneuver is the only method for clearing a blocked airway recommended for adults by the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, but it has to be performed carefully, so as not to damage the rib cage.

May learned the technique while taking a CPR course as a certified medical assistant 10 years ago. Coincidentally, she had just remarked to a friend the day before the incident at the school that she should get her recertification.

“I told my friend it had been so long, I wasn’t sure I’d know what to do if something happened, and she told me, ‘You’ll know what to do when it comes down to it,’ and I’m so glad I did,” said May.

A stay-at-home mom, May just recently decided to volunteer at the school to fill her time while her daughter, Dallas, 5, attends kindergarten. She’s glad she did and was able to save Berenice’s life.

A 1982 Live Oak graduate, May and her husband, Rick, an electrician, have lived in Morgan Hill for about eight years. She said she enjoys volunteering at the schools.

“I just find it a wonderful thing to do and the school really needs help from parents,” she said.

Some day, May said she would like to focus on being a special education aid. She used to work with disabled adults at Community Option in San Jose.

“Helping special education kids, disabled adults is my passion,” said May.

May encourages everyone to take CPR training when they can.

“I just think it’s good to know, because you never know when you’ll be able to use it,” said May.

She said it’s an opportune time for anyone interested in taking the course. The Morgan Hill Unified School District is currently offering CPR classes on Thursday, Oct. 6, from 3:30 – 7 pm at the district office. Call the office at 201-6023 for details.

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