A Long Island school board is honoring a custodian at one of its schools, hailing him a hero for going above and beyond to save the life of a 15-year-old girl who started choking during lunch.
Once strangers, student Avery Ward and custodian David Cook are now forever linked. The Rocky Point High School freshman was eating in the school cafeteria on June 10, laughing with friends, when a French fry became lodged in her throat.
"I tried to talk, and that when I realized I couldn't breathe, and then I started freaking out," Ward said. She was later told she turned purple before passing out — that's when Cook came to the rescue.
"I ran across the cafeteria when I heard it was a medical emergency, and when I grabbed Avery out of the seat, I performed the Heimlich and it took five times to get it dislodged," Cool said.
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The father of four said he used the same maneuver before to save his son, and said he learned how to do it by reading a poster hanging on the cafeteria wall.
The school's principal said after what has been a difficult year, a moment like the one last Thursday is one everyone can celebrate. Cook has received over two dozen messages from staff members at the school congratulating and praising him for his quick actions — but Cook said his first thoughts were not of saving a life, but rather of his own daughter.
"I was thinking about my daughter Lily, to be honest with with you," he said. "This is somebody's daughter and I had to do what I had to do."
The school board honored Cook Monday night, with Ward there to lead the cheers for a school worker she once barely knew, who changed her life forever.
"Just thank you. Honestly," Ward said to Cook.