Riverside Middle School seventh-grader A.J. Kirkman (right) is congratulated by classmates after being recognized during a school assembly for saving the life of another student in the lunchroom by applying the Heimlich maneuver when she was choking.
Photo by Jim BlaylockA.J. Kirkman is enjoying his 15 minutes.
Jessica Proctor is enjoying life.
The paths of the Riverside Middle School seventh-graders crossed last week, intertwining Baywatch, a piece of potato and the Heimlich maneuver.
"Everybody gets 15 minutes of fame, and I guess this is mine," A.J. said afterwards. "It's not every day you get to save somebody's life. I was glad I was in the right place at the right time. Glory be to God that she was OK."
A.J. and Jessica were sitting beside each other in the lunchroom around 11 a.m. Thursday, consuming a meal of hot dogs and potato cruisers - animal cookie-shaped potato bites. The potato cruiser nearly killed Jessica, when one got caught in her throat.
"She put a potato cruiser in her mouth, then she was silent for moment," said A.J., 12, the son of Anita and Edric Kirkman of Martinez. "Then she started making choking sounds and stood up. I thought she was kidding at first, but then she turned bright red. I thought to myself, 'She's really choking.' I patted her on the back, but that wasn't doing any good. So I started doing the Heimlich maneuver and it popped right out."
A.J. said he learned to do the Heimlich maneuver by watching television, particularly Baywatch, where he'd seen it done on one episode. He also learned how to do it, he said, from an instructional poster hanging in the wall of the lunchroom. The Heimlich maneuver is a technique used to dislodge an object stuck in the windpipe by applying sudden sharp pressure to the abdomen just below the rib cage.
"It's something you see all the time, but don't pay much attention to," he said. "You never know when something like that is going to come in handy."
On Friday morning, A.J. was called to Principal Don Putnam's office to recount the story to him.
"I thought I was in trouble," he said, "but I was praying to God she was OK and hoping I didn't do anything wrong."
At an assembly Friday afternoon, A.J. received recognition from Mr. Putnam and a booming round of applause and cheers from pupils at the school.
Jessica's father, Carroll Morris, said Jessica was home from school Friday recovering from the incident which left her with bruised ribs, a natural side effect of the Heimlich maneuver, her doctor said.
"I'm certainly more than grateful," he said. "He's a quick thinker. My daughter said she couldn't breathe at all. He definitely saved her life."
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