Security video shows principal helping save student’s life

Dramatic security video shows Huntington East Middle School Principal Jody Sowards performing CPR on a student who'd collapsed.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 10:58 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A principal is being praised for actions that helped save a student’s life.

First year Huntington East Middle School Principal Jody Sowards never imagined he’d find himself dubbed a hero.

On Nov. 3, eighth-grader Tim Johnson was in the hall at the school during basketball conditioning when he collapsed.

Sowards had been attending a banquet at the school recognizing fall sports when he was notified a student needed help.

“I turned the corner and saw a young man lying in the floor,” Sowards said. “That’s when it really hit somebody does need me.”

Sowards and several staff members assessed the boy’s condition.

“I looked for a pulse, tried to feel a pulse, looked for breathing, couldn’t see anything, that’s when we assessed him, and I started CPR,” Sowards said. “My mind is going, ‘You gotta do everything you can do to save this kid’s life.’”

Security video captured Sowards performing CPR while an ambulance was on its way. He also helped load the student onto a stretcher, and he was taken to a hospital.

Doctors later told Johnson’s mother, Katesha Wells, that his left coronary artery hadn’t been pumping enough blood. She says her son had been born with a heart condition, but it hasn’t prevented him from being able to play sports.

“Watching the video was really emotional,” Wells said. “You don’t have but so long to not receive blood and oxygen to your brain and body.”

“To me it’s somebody’s kid,” Sowards said. “It could’ve been my boys.”

In the weeks since, the 14-year-old has been recovering.

“I was happy because he saved my life,” Johnson said.

“Even to see him be able to walk and talk without any difficulties right now, it’s a miracle,” Sowards said.

At Tuesday night’s Cabell County Board of Education meeting, Sowards was surprised with the Superintendent’s Superhero award.

He was also reunited with the student he helped save.

“He’s a really good principal,” Johnson said.

“Everyone involved are heroes,” Wells said.

“It’s part of what my leadership role is, part of what God’s got me in here for,” Sowards said.

Johnson hasn’t been able to return to school yet as he continues to go through physical therapy. He’s hoping to be able to participate in school sports before the school year is over.