NORWALK, Ohio– Kaden Mancilla and Eban McKenzie describe themselves as best friends.
The two Norwalk Middle School students are frequently together, as they were during their lunchtime on Thursday.
“Pretty much I was just making jokes… Everyone was laughing,” Eban said.
“I was laughing and eating a carrot. I tried to swallow and it just got caught in my throat,” Kaden said.
Although he never had any formal training, 13-year-old Eban said he instantly believed he needed to do something.
“He had his hand over his throat just coughing and coughing,” Eban said. “Everybody has the general sense of knowing what to do, but I didn’t really know how to properly actually do it, but I tried the best I could.”
Cafeteria surveillance camera video shows Eban quickly getting up from his seat, going behind his friend and performing the Heimlich maneuver.
“It kind of just happened. I didn’t panic. I just thought, ‘Well, he’s choking,’ and got up and just did it,” he told FOX 8.
Kaden said the carrot was forced out of his airway and back into his mouth, where he finished chewing it.
The episode caught the attention of teachers who, at first, chalked up what they were seeing to horseplay.
“My first inclination was that there might have been horseplay going on. Because, you know, with seventh-grade students you don’t know whats going on. And when you see it, you see him talking to him and he jumps over and does the Heimlich and talks to him afterwards. You can tell it wasn’t horseplay,” said Principal Gary Swartz.
Despite possibly saving the life of his friend and classmate, Eban said he isn’t a hero.
“I wouldn’t say I was a hero. I just, I saved my friend.”
“After he did that, I felt like he became my best friend,” Kaden said.