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Students acts quickly, saves friend

Eighth-graders walk away from incident with valuable life lessons

Posted: November 2, 2009 9:59 p.m.
Updated: November 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Placerita Junior High students Alex Guerrero, left, and Anthony Tohill walk toward the lunch table where Alex helped Anthony dislodge a piece of chicken from his throat.

Placerita Junior High School eighth-grader Alex Guerrero knows what it takes to take charge of saving a life.

During a recent lunch hour on the junior high campus, Guerrero sat with friend and classmate Anthony Tohill to enjoy a take-out treat.

Suddenly, Tohill began to choke on a piece of orange chicken, a lunch-time favorite ordered by the school two days a week.

Guerrero leapt across the table to attend to Tohill's trapped mouthful of chicken.

The student's instantaneous reaction to give a helping hand happened without a moment to spare.

"I have eaten the chicken before, but all of a sudden I couldn't breathe," said Tohill, 13. "The piece felt like it was stuck in the middle of my throat. It was really scary and I'm glad Alex was there."

Guerrero began pounding on Tohill's chest, in hopes of removing the piece of food obstructing the airways.

"I didn't know CPR, but I remembered what I have seen on TV shows when people save lives. It worked!" said Guerrero, 13.

Guerrero has no formal training in emergency first-aid response.

Yard duties standing near the scene rushed to escort Tohill to the nurse's office and send him home for the day.

But Tohill knows that a more immediate action was needed to save his life.

"If it wasn't for my friend jumping over the table to help me, I don't know what would have happened by the time anyone else noticed," Tohill said.

The entire incident happened in under a minute and Guerrero recalls why it will last a lifetime.

"It taught me that when something needs to be done to save someone, you should just do it," Guerrero said. "If you wait to help, it might be too late."

School administration knows that this mentality is one they hope to encourage among their student body.

"It was really great the way that Guerrero rushed in and did what needed to be done," said assistant principal Francine dos Remedios. "It teaches others to be aware of what's going on around them and care for each other. It's an important lesson to learn through his example."

Guerrero will be considered for an upcoming Student of the Month award for his quick action.

But Tohill has his own idea of why the incident is important to remember.

"What Alex did for me shows that we need to start helping not harming people," Tohill said. "We are all here for each other and I know I would do the same thing if I saw that someone needed me."

Guerrero shared his friend's sentiments.

"It was the first time that I ever did something like that for someone else," Guerrero said. "But I'm really glad that I followed my first thought and just went for it. I just did what needed to be done."

Tohill walked away from the hair-raising situation unharmed, but not before learning one more valuable lesson for life.

"I have to remember to chew my food," Tohill said. "I think that will help for a lot of reasons!"


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