Mom 'praying for a miracle' after 7-year-old Brooklyn girl chokes on lunch at school, placed on life support

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ByLucy Yang via WABC logo
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
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Sandra Bookman reports live from Williamsburg.

WILLIAMSBURG, N.Y. (WABC) -- A 7-year-old girl is on life support inside NYU Langone Medical Center after choking on her lunch at school in Brooklyn. Now, the EMT who tried to save her is suspended from his job.

Never did Ana Santiago expect to find her daughter, Noelia-Lisa, on life support after a day at school.

"I wish they would tell me the answer to what happened to my baby," said Santiago.

Last Wednesday, Noelia-Lisa Echavarria went skipping off to first grade at PS 250 in Williamsburg. Her family said she was a slow eater and was always being rushed to finish at lunchtime.

"My niece came out or lunchroom eating a sandwich. They say she was choking. She was holding her throat," said Carlos Santiago, Noelia-Lisa's uncle.

EMT Qwasie Reid just happened to be driving by in a private ambulance when someone ran out of the school crying for help. At the time, Reid was transporting a patient from the hospital to an assisted living facility, and had another EMT and an aide inside the ambulance at the time.

Reid said he immediately cleared out the little girl's mouth, put an oxygen mask on her, used a defibrillator and started CPR.

"She was blue in the face and lips. No response. Unconscious unresponsive," Reid said.

Compounding the family's nightmare, they told Eyewitness News the principal has never called them. They actually have no idea what happened last Wednesday.

When the mother saw her daughter so lifeless, she collapsed, suffered 15 seizures and had to be admitted herself. She was discharged just Sunday.

"I'm trying to find answers, but nobody is giving me one," said Noel Santiago, Noelia-Lisa's grandfather.

"She's a sweet girl," Ana Santiago said. "Hard to see her like that."

As for the EMT who tried valiantly to give Noelia-Lisa a second chance, he says no one was helping the child when he first raced into the school. And for all his heroic efforts, he has now been suspended from his ambulance company.

"I made a vow to save a life. If I had to jump out of the ambulance again, I'd do anything. I pray to God she feels better," Reid said.

The family told Eyewitness News Noelia-Lisa is basically brain dead at this point, but they don't have the heart to pull the plug. Her mother is "praying for a miracle."

The Department of Education issued this statement Tuesday afternoon:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Noelia and her family and school community. Based on the information, we believe the principal and faculty responded swiftly to the emergency, notifying 911 and the student's family immediately. We continue to monitor this situation."

Stay with abc7NY for the latest on this developing story.