---- — When nurses in the intensive care unit at a local hospital started clapping for an Andover fifth-grader when he came to the unit, his mother knew what he had done was a really big deal.
When his baby-sitter had a severe medical reaction, Nicholas Duda, 11, kept his head and called 911 for help.
“He saved my life...he is my hero,” Corinne Keeler said of Nicholas, a Chandler Road resident and a student at High Plain Elementary School who plays on a basketball team for the YMCA in Andover.
“I wouldn’t be here if not for Nicholas,” said Keeler, who lives in Salem, N.H. “I know I wouldn’t.”
Nicholas’ mother, Michele Duda, sat proudly on the family’s leather coach holding back tears as the story of how her son called 911 and stayed with the nearly unconscious Keeler until paramedics arrived was retold to a reporter.
Keeler babysits Nicholas, and Michele Duda said she “is like family.” Keeler is also a crossing guard at High Plain Elementary School and works at Stop&Shop in North Andover.
The medical incident happened Friday, Feb. 22, around 3 p.m. Nicholas was at Memorial Hall Library with Keeler.
“I had a project due, that’s why we were there,” Nicholas said.
Suddenly, Keeler, who had had some polyps removed days earlier, did not feel well. She and Nicholas drove to his home and she ran to an upstairs bathroom.
“She was making weird noises so I went to check on her...it wasn’t good,” Nicholas said. “I saw red and it was blood.”
He dialed 911 and stayed on the phone while waiting for the paramedics. When the paramedics arrived, he had already made sure his dog, Rex, was out of the way, and directed them upstairs. Keeler was placed on a gurney and taken to Lawrence General Hospital. She was admitted to the ICU and stayed for three days.
After Keeler was taken away in an ambulance, Nicholas called his mother at work. A former nurse, Michele Duda now works at Popeye Restaurant in Salem, N.H. She headed home fast.
Apparently, Keeler was not healing correctly, Michele Duda said.
Being in the midst of a medical scene is not entirely new for Nicholas. He was there when his father, Walter Duda, suffered a heart attack and helped Michele when she was dealing with ovarian cancer, according to the family.
“My parents have taught me to be strong when stuff like this happens and I try to do that,” Nicholas said.