Skip to main content

ADA, Okla. – Reece Conner, a junior Kinesiology major at East Central University, saved his father’s life earlier this year, due in large part to what he learned in a class at ECU.

Conner was visiting with his parents when his father began coughing. “I could hear him coughing from my room, that’s what initially brought me into the kitchen,” stated Conner, “I looked at him and asked him if needed the Heimlich and he gave me the nod.”

Looking back on the experience, Conner expresses relief that he knew how to quickly respond to an emergency situation. For this, Conner credits one of his instructors, Matt McGaha, for teaching him the necessary tools to perform the Heimlich in McGaha’s First Aid class.

“I had Conner in First Aid last year and he learned all first aid skills including using abdominal thrusts to remove an object that causes a full airway obstruction,” McGaha stated.

ECU’s First Aid course, which includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training, is a required course for all Kinesiology majors at ECU since the majority of those graduates will be working in a medical or clinical field. The course is also available for other degree programs and has been taken by professionals in the region.

“I think I was truly there for a reason that day,” Conner explained. When asked what he did afterward, he said he made sure to send an e-mail thanking McGaha for his invaluable instruction.

McGaha’s response, when asked, was simple, “I just teach the class. He is the hero here.”

According to the National Safety Council, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death.

Thankfully, he was able to take what he learned from class and put it into action by performing the Heimlich maneuver, which has more than an 86% success rate according to the National Institute of Health.

A native of Elmore City, Conner is a punter on the Tiger football team.

For more information about ECU’s First Aid course or about the Kinesiology department, email

(Pictured: ECU instructor Matt McGaha and Reece Conner)

Share this post