Birches Elementary School fourth-grader becomes ‘Hometown Hero’

Dominic Bricker, 10, saved his choking 5-year-old brother’s life with the Heimlich maneuver

Dominic Bricker (left), 10, and his younger brother Michael, 5, pose for a photo with the awards and gifts given by township, state and county officials honoring his heroic act of using the Heimlich maneuver to save his brothers life when he began to choke.

Birches Elementary School fourth grader Dominic Bricker, 10, and his little brother Michael, 5, have a caring and loving relationship, their grandmother Pat Bricker said. Their bond was strengthened last month when Michael began to choke, and Dominic moved calmly and quickly to perform the Heimlich maneuver, saving the kindergartner’s life.

Dominic said they were at a friend’s house on April 29 when the choking incident occurred. When Michael approached Dominic, unable to breathe or speak, the older brother urged his friend to grab a glass of water. When that took too long, he said, he made the decision to give Michael the Heimlich maneuver. The candy in his throat was dislodged on the first try.

“I thought about getting water, but at the same time I thought maybe that wouldn’t work, so I just pushed on his stomach and it came flying out,” Dominic said.

In a surprise assembly celebrating Dominic’s actions on May 22, members of the township community, county and state honored him in front of his school peers as a “hometown hero.”

Principal Jessica Rose said the school’s motto is to “do what is right,” and that characteristic, demonstrated by Dominic, deserved to be recognized.

“When Dominic told me what he had done, I was so impressed,” said Mary Kay Stailey-Sims, Kennedy Hospital pediatric ER physician who took care of Michael that day. “Not only did he tell me what he had done, he told me in such a calm manner. You could tell he knew exactly what to do at the right time.”

Stailey-Sims presented Dominic with the Heimlich Hero Award for his bravery.

Dominic credits his knowledge of what to do in the emergency situation from watching the USA Network television show “Psych,” on Netflix.

“I thought about the show and I said, ‘yeah, I think I can do that,’” Dominic said. “He (Michael) said he felt nothing, so I also felt relieved.”

Dominic Bricker (front left), 10, is pictured, to the right, with his younger brother, Michael, 5, his father, Mike, and his mother Brooke, surrounded by Kennedy Health nurses and staff and state, county and township officials to celebrate and honor his heroic act of saving his brother with the Heimlich Maneuver.

In addition to Stailey-Sims, honoring Dominic were state Sen. Fred Madden, Gloucester County Freeholder Heather Simmons, Superintendent Joseph Bollendorf, Mayor Joann Gattinelli and representatives from the Washington Township Ambulance and Rescue Association and Kennedy Hospital.

Madden presented Dominic with a legislative resolution, describing him as a “young individual with outstanding character and exceptional determination.”

“As a state senator, I get a chance to meet a lot of people, but today is one of the proudest moments of my travels because I’m truly standing with a hero,” Madden said.

In addition to his awards and certificates, Dominic also received an honorary EMT badge, the Civilian Life Saving Award from Michael McEnery, Gloucester County Hero Scholarship Fund president, and a proclamation from Gattinelli naming Dominic Washington Township’s Hometown Hero.

“When we grow up and watch TV and read books, we start to think of a hero as a guy in a cape, a guy who scores a touchdown, but in the real world that’s not what a hero is,” Simmons said. “A hero is a person like you, or any one of you, who sees something happening that is not right, dangerous, upsetting or scary and does the right thing.”

Bricker said when Dominic heard the situation was gaining attention, he told her he couldn’t believe he had done anything “big enough” to deserve it, saying “a lot of people save people.”

“I told him, ‘Dominic, you did do something big, but for you, you just did it; you didn’t even have to think about it,” Bricker said. “The hero-thing doesn’t even affect him.”

“I just felt really happy that my brother wasn’t harmed and nothing happened to him, and that my brother is still here and living,” Dominic said.

To conclude the assembly, Kennedy nurse Maureen Green talked with the students about the signs and causes of choking, while demonstrating how to administer the Heimlich maneuver to children and infants if the situation were to occur.