NORTH ANDOVER (CBS) – A math teacher saved a fifth grader from choking to death in a North Andover classroom on Wednesday.

The school day began like most in Cathy Lee’s fifth grade Thomson Elementary School class, until a break during her math lesson.

“When all of a sudden I hear, ‘He’s choking! He’s Choking!’” said Lee.

WBZ-TV’s Diana Perez reports.

“He gave me the sign like this, and his face was blue, so I screamed and told Mrs. Lee,” said Jonathan Brown, who alerted Lee about the choking student.

A piece of a strawberry was lodged in Liam O’Cearuil’s throat. So, he threw up his hands and did the universal choking sign, something everyone at the school is taught in the fourth grade.

“The one thing I was thinking was ‘Help, someone please notice me,’” said Liam.

“There was no time to call anybody ‘cause I could tell he couldn’t breath, so I just sort of grabbed him from behind and gave him a bear hug,” said Lee.

The strawberry then flew out of Liam’s throat and he was saved.

“There was zero panic. It was literally over in about 10 seconds,” said Lee.

“And Mrs. Lee cleaned it up and I had a drink of water and I was fine,” said Liam.

Lee said she went right back to her math lesson, but there was certainly a teaching lesson here that wasn’t lost on anyone.

“We all practiced the signs and symptoms of choking and we all did the universal sign for choking,” said Kathy O’Neill, the school nurse.

Liam’s life was saved thanks to the lesson he received the year before.

“And if they hadn’t had that lesson, who knows what the outcome could have been,” said Lee.

“If he wasn’t there, I probably would’ve fallen on the floor and I don’t know what would happen next,” said Liam.

Thomson Elementary School’s policy is to teach all of its fourth graders the universal choking sign and the Heimlich maneuver. Liam said he wants younger students to learn it now, just in case someone else ends up in his position.

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