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Maintenance Man Rescues Teacher from Choking to Death

One Tinley Park High School teacher in a dangerous situation, another man in the right place at the right time. One high school maintenance man changed the lives of a teacher and his family.

A piece of food. An empty mug. A broken locker. Two men in an otherwise empty hallway. 

Teacher Tyler Teaney found himself choking in a Tinley Park High School hall Dec. 2, staggering for any help he could find. 

Maintenance man Jim Smith was tending to a broken locker across from Teaney.

Teaney had gone for a sip from the water fountain, hoping to dislodge a piece of food caught in his throat. Their paths aligned as Smith heard the coughs escaping Teaney's mouth. 

Teaney is seen on video stumbling down the hallway, nearly falling into a locker, before Smith realizes what's happening and springs into action. 

"I don't know how long it actually was, but it seemed like an eternity," Teaney said of the walk towards the bathroom. "And then he was right behind me."

Smith grabbed Teaney from behind and performed several pumps of the Heimlich Maneuver to free the food from his throat. 

"He was amazing," Teaney said. "He didn't even hesitate."

Smith, who just started working at the school in September, stayed with Teaney until staff and the nurse arrived, ensuring that he was safe and feeling OK.

Smith interrupted a set of circumstances that could have taken a devastating turn for the father of a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl. Admittedly, he often gets food caught in his throat, but clears it with a quick sip from his mug. That day, his mug was empty. 

Smith was responding to a call for a jammed locker, but the student wasn't there when he arrived. Any other day, he would have left and returned later. But he spotted the problem (a loose strap dangling under the door), and decided to fix it quickly. It was then that the single father spotted Teaney and used previous training to perform the maneuver.

The serendipitous timing wasn't lost on Teaney. 

"If he hadn't been there, I would have met my maker," he said. 

For Smith, the whole thing was a blur. He recalls hearing the coughing, calling for help, racing over and lifting Teaney off the ground during several powerful pumps. 

"He's probably going to think I'm weird, because I'm going to follow him around eating from now on," Teaney said, laughing. 

Smith was quick to brush off any praise. 

"I don't need all this," he said. "I would do it again in a heartbeat." 

But Teaney and his wife Kim aren't letting Smith dodge all gratitude. Teaney texted Kim after the incident, letting her know that she'd have to bake Smith some cookies that night because he had just saved her husband's life. 

"I didn't realize how serious it was until later that night," said Kim. "I'm extremely grateful for the broken locker in that hallway."

"But what do you say to thank someone for that?" Teaney said. 

Kim and their daughter showered Smith with a handmade card and homemade peanut butter and M&M cookies, which "would have been more than enough" for Smith. 

Teaney and Kim couldn't be more grateful. 

"I feel like I need to make him cookies every month for the rest of his career, and when he leaves, I need to follow him and keep bringing him cookies," she said. 

"I just don't know how to repay him."

It's easy to keep up with Patch!
John Belluomini December 05, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Kudos to you Jim Smith. God will smile upon your good deed. You are one of the good ones.
Julie Shaunnessey December 06, 2013 at 01:18 AM
Thank you JimSmith you are truly an angel!!
Harry Callahan December 06, 2013 at 08:26 AM
Lets shower this man with comments of praise like sometimes we do others he deserves it.May GOD Bless Jim Smith good job.
Harry Callahan December 06, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Wow just what I thought,just proves my point .Once again Jim Smith may GOD Bless You and Your Family for a good deed and that everyone came out of it in good shape.
Harry Callahan December 06, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Hey Patch were are you on this story,WAIT! I know it doesn't fit your criteria along with others have a nice day.
Lauren Traut (Editor) December 06, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Hi Harry. I'm confused what you're implying? I wrote this story. And actually, I believe we were the first to have it. Care to clarify?
Harry Callahan December 07, 2013 at 06:51 PM
@ Ms. Traut I'm just referring to this heroic deed by this man saving another and just look at the response compared to one just recently I'm just becoming more and more baffled at peoples priorities ,do you have to have special looks,age and other things to be recognized by the community and others???????

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