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First-Grader on Life Support After Choking on School Lunch

Photograph by Twenty20

A little girl is on life support after choking on her lunch and the heroic EMT who stopped to help her has been suspended from his job with a private ambulance company, according to New York ABC 7 news affiliate WABC.

Noelia-Lisa Echavarria, a first-grader at PS 250 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — who was known to be a slow eater, according to her family — choked while eating her lunch at school on October 21. The family said the girl was often rushed at school to finish her lunch.

The girl's uncle, Carlos Santiago, told the ABC news affiliate that he was told the girl came out of the lunch room and was choking and holding her throat.

Panicked school staff ran outside, crying for help, and a passing private ambulance stopped to assist the girl. EMT Qwasie Reid was the driver and he told the news station that he cleared out Noelia-Lisa's mouth to remove what she was choking on, put an oxygen mask on her and performed CPR. He also used a defibrillator on the girl because he said her face and lips were blue and she was unconscious and unresponsive.

The family told ABC news that the school principal never called them and they still don't have all the details about what happened to little Noelia-Lisa.

Now, the EMT who helped the girl has been suspended from his job. He said no one was helping the girl when he first ran into the school after being flagged down. The exact reason for his suspension has not been released.

"I made a vow to save a life," he told ABC 7 NY. "If I had to do jump out of the ambulance again, I'd do anything. I pray to God she feels better."

Noelia-Lisa was rushed to NYU Langone hospital where she remains on life support.

The family told the ABC affiliate that doctors say Noelia-Lisa is "basically brain dead" and will not likely recover, as doctors have not been able to detect any brain activity.

Department of Education spokewoman Devora Kaye issued a statement October 27 saying that based on the information they have, they believe "the principal and faculty responded swiftly to the emergency, notifying 911 and the student's family." However, the family doesn't believe the school did enough and has hired an attorney to try to get more answers about what happened to their little girl.

"She's a good girl ... she always happy ... she cared about everybody. Why the school couldn't save her?" her mother, Ana Santiago, tearfully asked at a news conference. She said she would not take her daughter off life support because they are still "praying for a miracle."

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