Summit Trail Middle School staff member saves student from choking

When a Summit Trail Middle School student began choking during lunch last week, quick action by Kitchen Manager Theresa Bergum averted disaster. The student was eating when a piece of food got stuck in his airway, so he left the table and headed toward the drinking fountain in hopes that water would help clear the blockage.

Subbing at the cashier station, Bergum saw the student place his hands at his throat, signaling that he was choking and hurried over to help. She asked the student whether he could breathe, and he shook his head to answer “No.” Bergum said she went into crisis mode and everything else faded away.

“I turned him around and did the Heimlich (Maneuver), then said, ‘Cough!’” Bergum said. As quickly as the incident had started, it was over and he was able to breathe again. Principal Sean Cassidy had been across the room and came over to help, then escorted the student to the nurse’s office.

“I’m feeling very happy that things went right,” Bergum said. “It wasn’t until later that I was like, ‘I saved somebody’s life.’ – That’s a good feeling!”

The student’s mom, Shannon Houston, said she is thankful for Bergum’s speedy response.

“Watching the video of the event brought tears to my eyes. I’m so impressed with how seamlessly Theresa responded to my son’s needs. The combination of him knowing how to convey his situation through the international choking sign and her knowing exactly what to do is a testament to how important first aid training is in everyday life,” Houston said. “I’m so grateful to her for what seemed like a moment in time on the playback, but could have meant the difference between life and death in my little world. She’s definitely a hero in my eyes!”

Cassidy echoed those sentiments and said that school staff members are greatly appreciative of Bergum’s actions, and underscored the fact that an emergency can happen at any time, anywhere, and to anyone.

“Each day, we are provided the responsibility to ensure the safety of more than 1,000 children, who are individually the most important aspects of any given family’s life. We all hope that if needed, we would all jump into action and do what is needed without hesitation. That is much easier said than done,” Cassidy said. “Theresa was a hero in that situation and has since humbly deflected praise for just doing the right thing.”