Following is an excerpt from our local paper, The Richfield Reaper

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T.J. Begay, left, accepts a cake and a gift bag from teacher, Julie Jensen last week. The ceremony, which was hosted in Begay’s honor, took place Jan. 23 at the Richfield Residential Hall.
By David Anderson – Associate Editor

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 4:15 PM MST

Hearing that a teacher saved a student’s life might not be all that unusual.

Teachers are oftentimes credited for making a difference in someone’s life – either by taking a student under their wings, or simply being there to listen to his or her struggles, dreams or ambitions.

However, hearing that a student saved a teacher’s life is a different story.

That’s exactly what happened at Richfield High School earlier this month when 15-year-old T.J. Begay administered the Heimlich Maneuver® to his teacher, Julie Jensen.

Jensen said that she had been snacking on some snap peas between classes Jan. 9.

When the bell rang, Jensen was sitting at her desk as the students began entering the classroom.

According to Jensen, she jumped up and started to panic when she could feel something lodged in her throat.

“At first it was like a crackle,” Jensen said. “Then I started giving the [universal choking] sign.”

Jensen said that Begay jumped up, grabbed her from behind and started administering the Heimlich.

After three thrusts, the food particle loosened, and Jensen said that she was able to breathe once again.

Jensen credits Begay for saving her life – literally.

“It’s a life altering event,” Jensen said. “You can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he weren’t there.”

At first, some of the students reportedly thought that Jensen was giving them a quiz to see if anyone knew what to do in such a situation.

Begay is described as a quiet, shy young man.

“You have to understand, T.J. rarely opens his mouth,” said Ursula MacKay, Jensen’s co-worker.

However, Begay never hesitated to come to Jensen’s aid.

“The kids said she was turning purple and they were very frightened,” MacKay said.

Two weeks after the event, Jensen presented a cake and gift bag full of treats to Begay in an effort to express her appreciation.

The informal ceremony was hosted at the Richfield Residential Hall Jan. 23, in front of Begay’s friends and fellow students.

Jensen, who attempted to shy away from the spotlight, said that the only reason she was doing anything publicly, was for Begay.

“I wouldn’t have done anything if I didn’t want T.J. to get the attention he deserves,” Jensen said. “I’m just embarrassed, but I’m so proud of him.”

Among the items Jensen presented to Begay, was a bag of LifeSavers.

“Because, he’s my lifesaver,” Jensen said. “What can you give a person who’s given you your life.”

Begay, who hails from Tuba City, Ariz., said that he learned the Heimlich in a Tuba City boarding school.

Though he’s being called a hero, Begay said that it was just a natural instinct to try to help.

“It’s a pretty good feeling,” Begay said.

A freshman at RHS, Begay has four siblings.

He said that his future plans just include living his dreams. He said that he enjoys playing guitar, he’s always wanted to try motocross, and he hopes to become a welder.

For more information on the Heimlich Maneuver, log onto www.heimlichinstitute.org.


TJ was also honored for his heroics in a special assembly at Richfield High School on Tuesday, January 29th 2008. TJ is the son of Annette Begay of Tuba City, AZ.

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