When Napoleonville native William Simmons arrived for work on March 30, he did not realize he would have to save someone’s life during his shift — twice in less than five minutes.
Saturday evening, while Simmons — a Nicholls State University student employee — was cooking in the kitchen of the Vernon F. Galliano Dining Hall on Nicholls campus, he heard a commotion coming from the cafeteria. He left his station and walked up to a crowd gathered around student and Norco native Hannah Hotard.
“…And I saw that she was a sort of choking a little bit. She wasn’t activity without oxygen. She could still breathe, but she was struggling to get something up,” said Simmons, who learned the Heimlich maneuver from a kinesiology class he took in high school. “So I looked around to see if anybody was going to do the Heimlich. Nobody was going toward helping her do that…So I just grabbed her and started doing it, and it came up eventually. Then she looked like she was doing all right.”
Hotard said she was in fear when Simmons went to perform the maneuver at first, as she thought he was trying to hurt her. But after the chunk from the chicken sausage gumbo had come up, she realized he as helping her and was relieved.
However, Hotard wasn’t in the clear yet.
“I left and went back to my station, and probably about three to four minutes later, they called me back and said she was choking again,” Simmons told the Times. “So I did it again for a little while and another piece had come up.”
This time all of the leftover gumbo expelled Hotard’s lungs.
Weeks after the incident, at a University Council meeting on April 23, Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune recognized Simmons for his efforts. He introduced Simmons, Hotard and Hotard’s father in front of all who attended the meeting.
“They called me up and said thank you,” Simmons remembered about the experience. “It was cool and sweet.”
Simmons will pursue a master’s degree in nutrition education and health promotion after he receives his bachelor’s in health and nutritional services this May. He wants to eventually teach, but will first pursue a job at a hospital while he gains experience.
Hotard will soon graduate from the Nicholls Bridge to Independence program — the program that helps students with intellectual disabilities or Autism Spectrum Disorder have a full college experience while they gain social and leadership skills that will properly prepare them for the job market. After Hotard graduates from the program this May, she hopes to work for the St. Charles Sheriff Office.
Thanks to Simmons and the Bridge to Independence program, she has a chance to. •