AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – Monday was the first day of school at Betty Jane Community Learning Center, an elementary school where only the 4th and 5th grades were in session at the time.
It was also the first day ever as an Assistant Principal for Darby Baumberger.
“It just started out normal as could be. I greeted students at the front door, and then I’m always in charge of lunch duties, so that was my first big job with the kids,” said Baumberger.
She was collecting trash at the end of the final lunch period when she says she heard nine-year-old Arthur Clark, a 4th grader, coughing behind her.
“I was talking to one of my cousins. He said something really funny while I was eating my corn dogs,” Clark told Fox 8 News on Thursday.
He said he started choking.
“It felt like something was in my throat my throat was itchy, it was like hurting and stuff,” said Clark.
Baumberger says she knew she needed to do something.
“It wasn’t like a normal cough, and then I turned, and I said, ’Are you okay?’ He didn’t really respond, he bent over the table, and he continued to cough,” said Baumberger.
Surveillance video from a camera in the school lunchroom shows Baumberger rushing around the table to stand Clark up.
She says she delivered several blows to his back, but he continued coughing and soon afterward he couldn’t breathe at all.
“I looked at my principal and she was saying, ‘I’ll get the nurse! I’ll get the nurse!’ But in my head, I’m like, there’s no time for that because I could tell he stopped breathing,” said Baumberger.
In the video, she is seen wrapping her arms around Clark and using the Heimlich maneuver to deliver two light thrusts, but Clark was still unable to breathe.
“It didn’t hurt that bad those two times the other two times she like did it harder,” said Clark.
“I did it two times a little harder and on the fourth time it dislodged,” said Baumberger, immediately becoming Clark’s hero.
“She definitely knew what she was doing,” said Clark, adding: “my momma is very very grateful that she was there.”
Clark’s mother, Ashley Howell, is extremely grateful.
“He’s at school I’m not able to be here, and thank God somebody was here,” said Howell.
“We had a scary moment on Monday but I’m just so happy that Ms. Bomberger was there and she reacted the way she reacted,” she added.
Baumberger says she had never done anything like that before during her 26 years of working in education and really never had any formal Heimlich training and that it is not required to do her job, but she decided to learn on her own.
She says the significance of what she did never really hit her until after it was all over.
“When I did it, I didn’t even really think about it I just thought, it’s my job. I’m here to keep these kids safe, so I didn’t really hesitate. I was just like this is what I have got to do.
During lunch on Thursday, with all grades present, she was instructing children to make sure they thoroughly chew their food before swallowing and to let someone know if they feel like they are choking.
Howell says her son is fine although he didn’t want to eat anything after he got home.
Clark says although he really likes corn dogs it will be some time before he wants to eat them again.