It was a crowded Coronado High School cafeteria. The same as any other day during the 2012 school year, but everything changed with one bite of a sandwich.
"I was in the lunch room sitting down, doing my daily lunch duty and I noticed that he (Kevin Bearden) was standing up pointing at his throat," said Coronado High School Assistant Principal Dr. Gionet Cooper. "When that happened there was a custodial worker with me and I said hey what do you think he's saying? I think he's choking."
It was a signal that Dr. Cooper taught his team when he coached basketball at Irons Junior High School.
"Our sign of letting somebody know that you're struggling is to point at wherever they're choking and that's kind of what he did."
Special Ed teaching assistant Kevin Bearden was choking on part of a Chick-Fil-A sandwich.
Right as he began to choke, Dr. Cooper rushed into action. He ran over to the table and performed the Heimlich maneuver on Mr. Bearden, dislodging the piece of sandwich from his throat.
"It's totally different when you're doing it on dummies, going through it, you know mundane, but every year we do it," said Dr. Cooper. "But to actually perform it on someone - wow, it works and I'm just thankful that the outcome was that he recovered. All I was trying to do is be responsive."
As a father, the seriousness of the situation isn't lost on Mr. Bearden.
"I have a family and I have a special needs daughter myself and I hate to stop to think what would happen, who would raise my daughter if I wasn't around," Bearden said.
After the event, Bearden went around the school telling the staff and students about Dr. Cooper's heroic act. He will never let his hero forget.
Cooper said, "Mr. Bearden reminds me every day. For like a week, he kept telling all the students and everyone else that Dr. Cooper saved his life. I'm like, you would've done the same for me, so to me it was just being responsive and taking care of my colleagues."
Dr. Cooper says he was just doing his job and trying to set a positive example for his students.
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