School staff honored for saving choking student


Jung Lee and Jesse Friedman received the John Street School Hero Award for successfully applying the Heimlich maneuver in May to a choking student during lunch. Franklin Square School District Superintendent Dr. Jared Bloom presented Lee, the school’s assistant principal, and Friedman, a teacher at the school, with the award at a board of education meeting on August 4.
Leo Papadimitrakis, the student who was saved from choking, attended the meeting to thank and recognize Lee and Friedman
“I’m just glad I was there,” Freidman said.
In her classroom that day, Friedman was alerted that Papadimitrakis was eating lunch in class with a teacher on duty present when he began to choke. An aide came screaming her name, and Friedman rushed to the student, who was, she said, “in distress.”
“It was starting to get really scary,” Freidman said, adding that the student was attempting to dislodge the food himself when she arrived.

Lee was in the school’s main office when Friedman had begun to administer the Heimlich maneuver to the student. The main office, Lee said, is close to the classroom where the student was choking, so he was able to rush there once he was informed by another teacher that Papadimitrakis was choking.
When Lee arrived, he saw Friedman attempting to administer the Heimlich maneuver continually and unsuccessfully. Lee described Papadimitrakis as a tall 5th grader, so he thought he might be able to administer it properly.
He decided to attempt to help the student, and after two attempts the food was dislodged.
Both Lee and Friedman said they do not remember much besides moving to help the student.
“With the adrenaline, I don’t think I was feeling anything,” Lee said. “It’s reactionary, when a kid’s choking or anyone’s choking that’s really the only option you’ve got.”
Friedman said one thing is key if you find yourself in a situation like this and someone needs immediate help: “Don’t hesitate – jump into action.”
Papadimitrakis immediately returned to being happy and smiling afterwards, Friedman said.
“For me, just the fact that I was able to help him… I’m just thankful that I was there in the moment for him,” Lee said.
He emphasized that everyone should learn the Heimlich maneuver in order to be able to help others in situations like the one that happened at the John Street School in May.
“I think this could happen anywhere,” Lee said. “I would think that if I’m in a restaurant choking someone in my vicinity would see that I was choking and would be able to do it for me.”
“The more people that know how to do it… the chances of someone being in a situation where someone can’t receive help is very minimal,” Lee said. “The more people that know it -- that would be awesome.”