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Episode 52: Health Class Lesson Helps to Save a Life in the Lunchroom

It was a day in the cafeteria at West Jordan Middle School that some students will never forget. On this episode of the Supercast, hear how a 9th grade student sprang into action, using a technique he learned in health class, to save the life of his best friend who was choking. It is a story of heroism and a health teacher’s life-saving lessons.

Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host Superintendent, Anthony Godfrey. It was a day in the cafeteria at West Jordan Middle School that some students will never forget on this episode of the super cast here. How ninth grade students playing into action using a technique he learned in health class to save the life of his best friend who was choking. It's a story of heroism and to help teachers lifesaving lessons. We're here with two students at West Jordan middle school that had an extraordinary experience last week. Tell me your names.

Jackson Johnson, Hunter Olson,

Jackson, and Hunter. So Jackson, tell us what happened the other day in the cafeteria.

I sat down with, well, I got my lunch. I sat down, I was eating it and I had, I had hiccups throughout the day. So I hiccup and a piece of chicken got stuck in my throat trying to see if I could cough it up. Nothing happened. So I turned around and I signaled to my friend I'm choking and then he gets up and does the Heimlich,

And that's your friend Hunter that did that. Did you have to get his attention? What was your, what was the choking sign that you gave?

I just put my hands over my throat. Okay.

And so a Hunter, you see this and what did you do?

My first instinct was just to come up and try to help as much as I could, but yeah, that was pretty much just it.

So when you walked over to him, what happened? Did you, did you just go right into Heimlich mode?

Yeah, pretty much. I had to like, make sure he was actually choking first because we were all at the table, just laughing, just cause we thought he was just choking on something little, like it went down the wrong tube or something. And then, so he was just coughing over the garbage can.

That's when you first realized I'm really choking here, what did you do to get their attention?

Well they were all looking at me cause I thought I was messing around. I turned and I looked dead at Hunter and I started putting my hands over my throat saying I'm choking while signaling it. And then he realized it and hopped up. Well, everyone else just thought it was still a joke.

So you just decided I'm going to focus on one person and that person is Hunter and I'm going to make sure I get his attention.

Yeah. Cause I knew he would actually do something. Yeah.

That's pretty awesome. What made you know that Hunter was the guy to take action and save your life?

One, the two other kids kind of weren't paying attention. And the other one was my brother who, the whole time he was kind of just saying call home because he really wanted to go home.

Yeah. Okay. So Hunter is the go to, how does your guy,

Eh, when he turned around and he hit his eyes kinda, he kinda had to look in his eyes like, Oh shoot, it's actually in there and I can't get it out myself. So I was like, okay. So I just stepped up and adrenaline shot shot up. So I was like, just went into autopilot I guess, and just did what I learned in health class. And I've seen her at work. So,

So you did feel that surge of adrenaline, you kind of realized, Hey, something's really wrong here. And have you felt that other times in your life before? Is there a comparable moment?

Yeah, like like a few years ago when I played football, like if you get like a big tackle or the whole team's depending on you to stop a play or something, it's just that kind of agenda and that adrenaline rush, but it was kind of like that on steroids.

And so your friend seems to be joking, you're laughing around, you realize he's actually choking, you get the adrenaline rush and you said you went into autopilot now. I don't know that I have autopilot for that sort of situation. We'd all like to think that we do, but I don't think we do. So how were you prepared for that situation?

I think I just paid attention in health class and had the, and I learned the practice in there and I just put it into real life.

How recently had you learned the Heimlich maneuver?

Last year in eighth grade.

So you paid attention in health class? That's an awesome thing. And it was last year. So you really did pay attention. Have you ever done the Heimlich before this time?

No. If this was my first time.

And so did you have to think about what to do or did you just do it?

Well, I just remembered kind of where to put my hands and I just kinda did it.

Can you kind of, we're here in the cafeteria where it happened and Jackson standing right there. Can you reenact it for us? Can you kind of show us? Let's see. Start choking Zack. Okay. What did you do? Jackson?

I put my arms up so that he could reach around.

So a hundred year shorter than Jackson. Yeah. So let's, let's see. Let's see you try that. We're here in the cafeteria where it happened. Let's let's see you stand back there and you just went right?

Oh, a little bit too high. And then he pushed her.

He pushed it also. So Jack, you pushed his hands down to get his hands or into the right position? Yeah. And how many times did you have to do it? I don't know.

Remember it was like four times before I actually popped it up.

So Jack, did you, where were you feeling that you were both feeling that high level of stress as it's happening? I'm assuming, yeah. I don't think I've ever done the Heimlich maneuver. I don't remember ever doing that on someone. Once, once the, so the, the meat then came out of your throat. Right. And how did you feel right in the aftermath of that?

I was shocked that actually had came out. Cause it felt like he was pretty stuck and I was also relieved to be able to breathe.

And did you, were you holding your throat afterward trying to, trying to swallow and you felt fine afterwards? What did you say to a Hunter afterward? I said thank you. Yeah. One of the biggest, thank you is of your life, I would guess. Yeah. So did you tell your parents about what happened?

They saw it as soon as they posted the thing on Instagram. About Hunter.

Oh yeah. You posted it on Instagram. The school did. Oh, the school did. And so that's how that is that how they found out? Yeah. But instead they found out from the school, Instagram account before you told them. Yeah. Cause then they called me down to call my parents. How did your parents react once you talked with them about it?

My mom was relieved that I was alive. My dad came up to me like start tuning your food now,

Lessons to be learned all around, pay attention in health class to your food. And sometimes your friends aren't joking. They really do need your help. Yeah. I really liked your description of the way the adrenaline kind of came up and, and the way that you Jackson, it described how you knew you were in trouble at a certain point and you knew it was really lodged in there. There are those moments that figuratively, we feel that there's that danger that we know there's something we need to do and that we need help. And those moments that Hunter experience, where we know it's time for us to step up and somebody needs us and we need to do that right now. Whether it's your teammates that you described or whether it's saving your friend's life, how does it feel when I say that sentence saving your friend's life?

It's pretty shocking. I'd never thought I'd really save one of my friend's life like in that kind of moment, but it's just kinda shocking.

So as a ninth grader, you've saved your friend's life. What's next for you now? I mean, it's always onward and upward. What's the next big achievement?

I don't really know. I like something comes up again. I'll jump in and hope, but,

Well, I, I have to say that we all hope that we would do what you did, but it's pretty impressive that you were able to remember what needed to happen and you jumped in and just took, took action because a lot of times someone's going to run for help instead of be the help. And it's pretty awesome that you were the help. And thank you. What kind of bond did this create between you two?

I think we had a pretty strong bond before because Oh, we hung out a lot. His dad was my old football coach, so we got to spend a lot of time together, but I think it even strengthened that brother hood that we have together. And I'm just kind of glad that he's my friend.

What do you think Jackson

I'd have to say the same thing.

So did the two of you pay as good attention in your other classes as you did to your health class?

Some of them, I liked my health class a lot, but

So the teacher really had an impact on it. Yeah. I would say if you pay as good attention in other classes, as you did in health and you apply your learning from those other classes, as well as you did in your health class, then you have great things ahead of you. So we pulled up some security footage and we actually can watch it. Have you guys seen this video yet? Okay. We're going to watch it and then we're going to get your reaction. Okay. So what happens here?

I just, when I started choking and then you can see Julio pointed and laughed at me, we're all laughing at him.

You're leaning over at the table. Yeah. I'm trying to, you're trying to cough it up into the garbage can to come back. You're pointing your throat

And then yeah.

Wow. You really use some force Hunter. Yeah.

This is where I moved his hands down. Okay.

Hunter. It didn't work at first and you just kept going. Wow. That was six times you lifted him off the ground.

Yeah. And right at the end I put my arms up and I yelled at my health teachers named Ms. Howard.

So you celebrated her. Oh wow. That's amazing. You lifted him off the ground. A couple of times is pretty strong. Yeah, obviously. So all that football that Jack's dad coached you in prepared you for this as well, because you you really put some, some strength behind that. And what was impressive is that you didn't give up, you just kept going. You didn't say, Hey, I've done it a few times. It's not working. You stayed with it. Yeah. I think we need to freeze frame the moment where you put your hands up and say her name, and we need to put that in a frame for your teacher. Okay. We're going to do that. Do that. That's pretty impressive.

And then Julio, our friend right there, the big boy, he was, he went to go tell the, the hall monitor.

So Julio went for help. Yeah. We're watching this again. That's that's just amazing. He just stayed with it. And were you okay after that? Did your throat hurt for a long time after that? Or

I was all right. It didn't really hurt.

Did you finish your chicken sandwich? Yeah. It's, it's a real pleasure talking to both of you and I'm just, I'm proud of what you guys have done. You you kept your head in a very difficult circumstance and that's going to serve you well in the future. Just great job. Wow. That's incredible. Stay with us. When we come back here from the health teacher whose classroom lesson helped save a life, are you looking for a job right now? Looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career. Jordan school district is hiring.

We're currently feeling full and part time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan school district. We like to say people come for the job and enjoy the adventure. Apply

We're here with Cathy Howell, a teacher at West Jordan middle school. Kathy you've had a significant impact of the school in just a few short years. You were Hunter's teacher who performed the Heimlich on Jackson in the school cafeteria and saved his life. How does that feel?

I'll tell you what, it's probably the highlight of my career. I don't think a teacher could be thanked anymore. Then somebody listening in their class and being able to save another person's life.

I'll agree with you there. This is an awesome feather in your cap. You know, teachers have a big impact on students and sometimes it's not so evident as immediately as this, I talked with Hunter and he says, it's information from your class last year that helped him jump into action. What do you think of that?

It's pretty amazing. I, as a teacher, you always wonder if, if the student is listening and you know that they're not going to get all the information, but it's one thing to know that he listened. But the other thing is, is that he had the power to jump up and actually do. That was amazing because all of us ask ourself, I think sometimes as what would I do in that particular situation. And to know that that kid was brave enough to do that was so amazing. And what an impact he saved somebodies life.

What that says to me is you didn't just teach them the procedure you gave your student the confidence to act on what you taught.

Thank you. I, I hope that that happens. There's a lot of things in health that are so important that these kids learn because it's, it's their life. And especially as adolescents that you know, that they're learning, they're learning what we need them to learn right now. With, with a lot of the subjects,

What you taught Hunter had an impact because he loved your class. That's what he told me.

Oh, that melts my heart. And it definitely does that. The kids are just they're everything. And you know, if you just lead them to where you need them to lead you know, hopefully they'll become great human beings in our community.

Now I'm going to guess that Hunter didn't walk into health class on the first day and say, you know what, I'll bet this is going to be my favorite class. But as soon as he gets to know you and starts to see how things are in the classroom, it becomes favorite class because of the teacher, because of you.

Thank you. That means a lot. Thank you so much.

There's an exciting tidbit that I learned as we watched this video with Hunter and Jackson, we watched the video of a Hunter actually performing the Heimlich. And after he knew that Hunter was okay, he celebrated by putting both fits in the air. And he said, how Woah. So he shot at your name after he'd saved Jackson's life.

I just heard that, that just lately. And that is so I wish I would have been there, but what a special thing, I don't think I'll ever this is at the top of the list for, for, you know, just things that happen in your career. I'll I don't think there's a better reward there just isn't.

Well, it's a, it's a great achievement. And it's a reflection of the 28 years of great teaching you've been doing and connecting to kids and helping them under the, understand the importance of what you're teaching. So thanks for being a great example of what a awesome teaching looks like.

Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

And you're going to be extending the Heimlich maneuver unit in your class.

Well, right now I'm hoping that we can get to that so that the kids can actually have the hands on practice. We do a practical where they have to pass a test with the, you know, the [inaudible] in the classroom. So I'm hoping to get there, but what it does change is I wish I was doing it sooner. Instead of at the end of my two quarters, I would, I would teach this a lot sooner.

It's one of the favorite stories that I've heard in a long time. It's been a pleasure talking with you, and it was great talking with the students as well. So thanks for everything you're doing and keep up the great work. Thank you so much. Thanks again for joining us on the Supercast. And remember education is the most important thing you'll do today, wherever you are. We'll see you.


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