Custodian saves third grader from choking in Mohegan Lake

MOHEGAN LAKE, Westchester County (WABC) -- A custodian at an elementary school in Westchester County is a hero after saving the life of a choking student.

Angelo Alessandro works as a custodian at George Washington Elementary School in the Lakeland Central School District.

"My job is to any spill, anything. Clean up the table make sure if the kids need any help," Alessandro said.

On April 20, a third-grade student began choking during lunch.

Lunchtime in an elementary school cafeteria is pretty straight forward, lots of noise, lots of little bodies buzzing around. So it was the stillness that stood out to Alessandro.

"I noticed something was weird because the kid was not moving. He was just staring at the table, and I knew something was going on," he said.

There were 40 to 50 students in the cafeteria when Alessandro jumped into action.

The student was not breathing, and his bottom lip was turning blue.

"As soon as I saw the purple lips, and the student was not breathing, I took action right away," he said. "I knew right away he was choking."

Alessandro pulled food out of the student's mouth and performed the Heimlich maneuver, which led to more food dislodging.

The episode lasted no more than a minute, the third-grader - walked away just fine.

Alessandro said it all happened so quickly.

"Breathe, breathe, breathe," Alessandro said. "I wanted him to breathe. That's all I wanted him to do."

George Washington's principal, Dr. Tracy Norman, was thankful for his efforts.

"I am proud of him," Dr. Norman said. "It speaks to his character. It is humbling to have a custodian go above and beyond and do such a heroic thing, putting others before himself. That's a true sign of a hero and I'm certainly proud of him for that."

Alessandro, who has been a custodian at the school for the past two years, also works overnights at New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley as an MRI technician aid.

"I got a little scared. I deal with patients every day, every night but it was a little scary," Alessandro said.

"I'm grateful we had Angelo here that day, and I'm grateful he took the initiative to be a human being and help another human being," Dr. Norman added.



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