Bus driver, student save first-grader having allergic reaction

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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First-grader Armon Hollenquest began coughing and losing his breath. Armon was having an allergic reaction to chocolate milk. Sixth-grader Amari Bell told the bus driver and called Armon's grandmother. The grandmother rushed Armon to the emergency room. Bus driver Ted Turnipseed called Amari's actions "outstanding."

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — It was a normal bus ride home from Dunbar-Ramer School when first-grader Armon Hollenquest began coughing and losing his breath while having an allergic reaction to chocolate milk.

"You think you got a 6- or 7-year-old dying on the bus, yeah, it's scary," Montgomery Public Schools bus driver Ted Turnipseed said in a phone interview.

Turnipseed said he heard "such a coughing fit" behind him. Dunbar-Ramer sixth-grader Amari Bell also saw Armon struggling to breathe and rushed to help.

"His heart was racing really, really bad," Amari said. "I told the bus driver. The bus driver told me to call his grandmother. That's what I did, and (Armon) passed out at his house and his grandmother rushed him to the emergency room."

That was Sept. 1, and on Tuesday, Amari and Turnipseed were celebrated at an MPS meeting for their combined efforts in helping Armon through a severe allergic reaction that eventually resulted in Armon losing consciousness and being taken to the hospital.

Making the situation more dramatic was the south Montgomery County bus route which runs through sparsely populated countryside. Turnipseed said he decided to complete the bus route later and instead drove straight to Armon's grandmother's house.

"It's an uneasy feeling out here in the country when something like that happens to a kid on the school bus because really you're responsible for him," Turnipseed said.

Amari , meanwhile, stayed by Armon and stayed in touch with the student's grandmother.

"I was so glad I was there for him. I did the best I could to help him out," Amari said.

Amari is autistic, and his mother, Jeneia Evans, said she was not surprised when he arrived home from school on Sept. 1 to tell her what happened.

"He loves to help in general with the bus, bus routes, and especially with substitutes, making sure he knows pretty much everything about every person and every student who gets on that bus. It was just great to have him on there that day," Evans said.

Dunbar-Ramer principal James Owens also said he was not surprised by Amari's rush to Armon's aid.

"It's a great honor and privilege to have him," Owens said. "He's a very studious student and I wouldn't expect anything else. He moved quickly. I think he saved a student's life and we're very appreciative of that."

Turnipseed has been a bus driver for 21 years. He said he's seen asthma attacks but nothing as serious as Armon's experience.

Turnipseed said Armon's grandmother called the next day to tell him it was an allergic reaction to chocolate milk, and he was proud of how Amari handled the frightening experience.

"Amari was there tending to him and doing all he could. He did a real good job. He was staying in communication with the kid's grandmother. I'm thinking that's probably what saved the kid," Turnipseed said. "He was outstanding. He handled it sort of like a professional would."

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