HILLSDALE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Julianne Downes teaches family and consumer sciences at a high school in New Jersey, but it was a lesson she learned that helped her save a student’s life.
March 13 started just like every other school day for the Pascack Valley High School teacher, until fifth period started.
“I noticed he was bent over and appeared to be choking. He’s kind of a funny kid so I said ‘are you playing around?’ and he shook his head and pointed,” Downes said.
The student in her culinary sciences cooking lab had literally bitten off more than he could chew, so she sprang into action.
“I just put his head into the corner like that and started doing the Heimlich right over the garbage,” the teacher told CBS2’s Tara Jakeway.
After nearly twenty attempts the food finally dislodged. The science teacher had saved his life.
“As a mom, as an educator, as a human, it’s our job to just do the right thing. So I didn’t really think anything of it,” Downes added.
Downes’ students, fellow faculty, and school administrators are praising her heroism.
“You never want to see someone have to go through something like this, but the fact that our staff is trained to handle such a situation is just great,” Paul Zeller from Pascack Valley High said.
It turns out every staff member and student at the school is trained in CPR. It was mandated back in 2015 after a student collapsed at track practice and a teammate that happened to be an EMT saved his life.
“We feel that teaching kids how to be CPR certified and AED certified is a life skill, no different than riding a bike or swimming. It’s something you should know how to do,” Zeller added.
It’s because of that policy that a humble Downes says this could have been anyone at the school saving the day.
“It’s impressive and powerful that we have all these people that can jump into action in any moment,” Downes said.