SIX-YEAR-OLD Summer Kirtis has more reason than most to thank her school teaching assistant.

The youngster was having lunch at St Joseph’s Primary School in Carterton when a piece of doughnut she ‘forgot to chew’ became lodged in her throat.

Luckily teaching assistant and lunch lady Elaine Petherick wasn’t far away and rushed to Summer’s aid, dislodging the morsel by performing the Heimlich manoeuvre.

Summer, who lives with her mum, Vanessa, and brother Alfie, five, in Shilton Park, said yesterday Mrs Petherick was her superhero adding: “She saved my life.”

Ms Petherick, who lives in the town and has worked at the school in Lawton Avenue, for 20 years, was doing her rounds of the hall shortly after midday on Tuesday when something caught her eye.

She said: “I just happened to look up and saw Summer sat bolt upright. I ran to her and slapped her on the back six or eight times but nothing happened.

“Fortunately I had done first aid training where I had learned the Heimlich manoeuvre. I picked her up and on the third thrust the food came out.

“It was a bit of a worry, but at the time you just don’t think about it. It’s just instinct. It’s just fortunate I turned around and saw her because she wasn’t making any noise at all. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Summer’s mum Mrs Kirtis, 28, received a call from the school informing her what had happened and she took the youngster to the minor injuries unit in Witney Community Hospital, where she was checked over.

She said: “I’m so glad that Mrs Petherick turned around when she did and that she was there to do the manoeuvre. If it had happened at home I would have just stood their screaming.

“It didn’t really hit me until I went to bed that night that she could have died. Mrs Petherick literally saved my daughter’s life. I still haven’t properly got my head around it.”

Despite the stress, Mrs Kirtis was able to see the funny side.

She continued: “Of all the things that could have nearly killed her it had to be a doughnut.

“When we were on the way to the hospital I asked her what happened. She told me that she had nearly finished her doughnut, and that it was so yummy she didn’t want to chew it so she swallowed the whole thing.

“Later I found out that after they’d done the manoeuvre and it came out, she tried ramming it back in again because she just really wanted that doughnut. They had to move it away from her.”

Yesterday Summer and her mum went back into school to present Mrs Petherick with flowers.