While having lunch in the Seymour High School cafeteria a week ago, JaeCarr Greer felt a tap on his shoulder from his friend, Cayenne Stogsdill.
Moments before, Greer let Stogsdill take a potato wedge from his tray while at their table, and another friend said something that made her laugh.
She then started to laugh and subsequently began to have an asthma attack. Then part of the potato wedge became lodged in her throat.
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Stogsdill went over to a trash can to try to cough it out, but was unsuccessful. She returned to the table, tapped on his shoulder and signaled to her neck that she was choking.
That’s when Greer took over.
There wasn’t time to find help so he wrapped his arms around her and jolted Stogsdill twice with the Heimlich Maneuver, essentially saving her life.
The quiet, unassuming senior didn’t think much of his heroic action. In fact, he didn’t even tell his mother, Christina, what had happened.
“I just didn’t think it was a big thing,” he said. “I think it is something humans should do. We should all just stop and help each other.”
Greer may not have told anyone, but Principal Greg Prange wanted as many as people as possible to know about the heroics.
That’s why Prange presented Greer with the Owl Service Award, the highest recognition the school presents to a citizen.
The award was created in 2012, and Greer is the first student to receive it. His name will be included on the plaque inside the gymnasium with the other 13 who have received it.
Prange presented him with the award Friday in front of his family, Stogsdill and her family, faculty and other members of the community. He still seemed stunned by how quickly and calmly Greer stepped up to the task.
“Every once in awhile, I see a student do something nice for another student, and usually, it involves opening a door, picking up something someone dropped or helping them with homework,” he said. “But what happened in this school earlier this week is maybe the most heroic manner that a student could bestow on another student.”
Prange said to receive the award, it usually takes years of dedication and service, but the school felt it was necessary to give to Greer.
“Sometimes, it’s built up over a lifetime of commitment and dedication,” he said. “That 30 seconds isn’t 30 years, but that 30 seconds saved a life.”
It wasn’t luck. Greer, who wants to study law enforcement and become a police officer, first received training in the Heimlich Maneuver when he was young and a member of the Boy Scouts.
He also received training from health courses at Seymour and law enforcement classes as part of the C4 program he attends.
“I’ve had training pretty much all my life,” he said.
Prange was attending a funeral when the incident occurred and learned about it Tuesday morning. He reviewed the security footage and was impressed with how calm he remained.
Greer said he just knew he had to stay calm.
“I just knew I had to help,” he said. “I just had to get my arms around her and get it out.”
Jeana White, Cayenne’s mother, attended the presentation and became emotional as she went to hug Greer.
“He saved my daughter’s life,” she said, thanking Greer.
Brad Lucas, Seymour’s fire chief, also attended the presentation and said firefighters help people who choke occasionally.
“I commend you and congratulate you,” he said. “Thank you for taking your training serious and keeping calm and knowing what to do.”
Greer maintained he did not feel like a hero and was doing what he had been trained to do.
“I don’t feel like a hero,” he said. “I just feel like someone that did what they needed to do.”
Stogsdill said she remained calm throughout the incident, too. She was more in shock that it was happening and knew she needed to get help.
She said she didn’t really think about anything else and chose Greer because she knew him well and figured he would know what to do.
Now that she has had time to think about the situation, she understands what could have happened.
“If he wouldn’t have helped me, I would have probably passed out or died,” she said. “Other students weren’t helping and faculty couldn’t see it.”
Christina Greer said it has always been her son’s nature to help when needed.
“He doesn’t ever get excited about anything,” she said. “I think he’s going to make a great cop one day.”
Greer thanked Prange after being presented with the award, and Prange had one response.
“No. Thank you,” he said.