Fates conspired to put this Idyllwilde Elementary employee right where she needed to be
How does a selfless woman with an enormous amount of faith save a tiny girl named Faith? It’s a story made for believers.
And, if you ask Ciera Armstrong-Conroy and Tina DeBose about the events that brought them together on September 14, both will tell you, with certainty, they were the result of divine intervention.
While traveling east on State Road 46 as they returned home from a birthday party, Ciera and her son Landon, 7, were recounting their day of fun when Landon asked his mom if he could eat a lollipop from his party favor bag. Before he could enjoy the sweet treat, his baby sister, Faith, quickly grabbed the lollipop and within seconds was choking on the wrapper.
“I was at a red light when I heard Landon scream from the backseat, ‘Mommy! Faith is choking,’” Ciera recalls. “I looked in the rearview mirror and, sure enough, Faith was not breathing. I rushed out of my car, unbuckled her, and quickly administered the Heimlich maneuver on my 11-month-old baby girl while frantically screaming for help.”
Those screams were heard by Tina, who was at the same stoplight, just a few lanes away.
“Only one woman rushed over,” Ciera says. “By impulse, I handed Faith to this complete stranger. I didn’t know what to do. I was hyperventilating.”
Fortunately, Tina, a 21-year veteran with Seminole County Public Schools, knew exactly what to do. With traffic surrounding them, she continued to administer back thrusts until the piece of paper blocking Faith’s airway was dislodged. After a few coughs and sips of water, Faith was breathing normally. But Ciera needed reassurance that her baby was truly okay, so she hugged the kind, still-nameless stranger and raced to the closest emergency room. Tina returned to her car and headed home.
“I never thought I would see her again or be able to thank her properly, but God had other plans,” Ciera says. “Three days later, I had to go into the office at Landon’s school, and that’s when I saw the woman that God sent to help us standing right there in front of me wearing her school ID badge. She’s a teacher at my son’s school! Some would call this a coincidence, but I call it a miracle.”
Currently an ESE, Pre-K paraprofessional at Idyllwilde Elementary School, Tina instantly recognized Ciera. “It was like being reunited with a family member,” she says.
During that unlikely reunion, Tina explained to Ciera that she shouldn’t have even been at that particular red light on that fateful day.
“I was with my mom,” Tina recalls. “We were traveling from our church in Eatonville to Leesburg to see my grandmother, and we got lost a few times, so our schedule was off. As we were heading home, I heard Ciera’s screams. My mom told me I just jumped right out of the car. But I know it was more than instinct. God put his hand on me and led me to Faith.”
Recently recognized for her heroic act by Dr. Walt Griffin, SCPS superintendent, Tina humbly says she simply did what she is trained to do – help people.
Want More Information?
“I just did what I hope other people would do for me,” says Tina. “When I was telling my husband how I met Faith that day, he said I’ve been doing that for years, just jumping out of cars to help people. The Lord uses each one of us for his doing. We may not understand what he’s doing or why, but it’s not our job to understand. It’s our job to respond, to take action and to always, always remain steadfast in our faith.”