Oak Park and River Forest High School security guard Joseph Beard was going about his daily duty last Tuesday, patrolling the halls at the school. Beard, along with fellow security guard Brian Halloway, was on the third floor about an hour before school dismissal.
Speaking with an administrator who was leaving a third floor faculty lounge, Beard and Halloway heard the faint sound of coughing coming from inside the lounge. The two men began walking away, then heard the coughing grow louder.
When the two guards walked into the lounge, they found a woman coughing and struggling to breath. She pointed to her throat, and Beard, a 14-year veteran of the Bellwood police and a part-time school security guard, grabbed the woman and performed the Heimlich maneuver on her. She was choking on a French fry, which he dislodged from her throat. A school nurse soon showed up, and the woman, a human resources administrator at OPRF, credited Beard.
“I have never had this happen,” said Beard, who has worked as a security guard at OPRF for about a year. He’s also been a security guard at Proviso East High School since 2001.
Beard splits his weekdays between OPRF, Proviso and the Bellwood police.
The choking incident at OPRF last Tuesday took place at around 2 in the afternoon, the same time Beard starts his shift, which ends at 10 p.m. The woman he helped is reportedly doing fine.
“At the time, we thought it was probably someone drinking and that something went down the wrong pipe,” he said.
Beard works security at OPRF every day from 2 to 10 p.m., and works in the morning and early afternoon shift Monday through Wednesday at Proviso East. The rest of the week is spent at the Bellwood station.
Beard was hired at OPRF last October after applying for a job with security at the suggestion of one of the school’s coaches.
“He said the school was looking for a night-time security officer. I went online and filled out the application-I was hired about a month later,” Beard recalled.
Beard said only a few people around the school have mentioned the choking incident to him since it happened.
Beard, like other officers, are trained to use the Heimlich maneuver, but he used it for the first time last week.
“You go through the training, but you never know if you’re going to use it, or if you’ll have to use it, but it’s good to know,” he said.