Bedford County teacher's aide credited with saving life of choking student

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) At Big Island Elementary School, students call Angelika Gutierrez "Ms. Angel."

"I just feel at home," Gutierrez, a special education teacher's aide, said. "I love the kids. They're not my biological kids, but they're my kids nonetheless."

One of her favorite kids is a first grader named Caleb Sims.

"I love that little boy," Gutierrez said. "He's Spanky from The Little Rascals. That's who he reminds me of."

Caleb is a playful boy with a few pets at home.

"One cat and one pig," Sims said with a big smile.

Sims goes to Big Island with his older brother, Carsen. On Tuesday morning, they were eating breakfast in the school cafeteria when something happened.

"I got choked," Sims explained.

Sims says a banana got stuck in his throat. In surveillance video, you can see a classmate patting him on the back. Seconds later, Carsen comes to check on him.

"His face was red and I saw half the banana sticking out," Carsen said. "I yelled 'my brother!'"

"He had a fearful look on his face," Gutierrez said of Caleb. "I asked 'is he choking?'"

Gutierrez took off running.

"I just did what I had to do," Gutierrez said. "I didn't think about it, I just picked the boy up and did the Heimlich maneuver on him."

Gutierrez said she has known the Heimlich maneuver for a while, but before Tuesday she had never performed it on anyone.

"Something took over," Gutierrez said. "I don't know what it was. I just knew I had to help that boy."

"Ms. Angel picked me up and put me down, picked me up and put me down, and then they told me to spit the banana out," Caleb said.

"Everybody kept telling me I was a hero. I'm not," Gutierrez said. "I just did what anyone else would do. I'm just Ms. Angel."

On that day you could say she was Caleb's "guardian angel."