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Romeoville 7th Grader Saves Classmate From Choking

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Trey Harbert and Emmanuel Marte Gil reenact how Trey used the Heimlich Maneuver to save Emmanuel from choking during lunch on Sept. 6, 2011, at Martinez Middle School in Romeoville. (Photo courtesy: Valley View School District 365U)

Trey Harbert and Emmanuel Marte Gil reenact how Trey used the Heimlich Maneuver to save Emmanuel from choking during lunch on Sept. 6, 2011, at Martinez Middle School in Romeoville. (Photo courtesy: Valley View School District 365U)

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ROMEOVILLE (WBBM/CBS) – A 7th grade student knew how to use the Heimlich Maneuver when it counted Tuesday at Romeoville’s Martinez Middle School.

Now, he’s a reluctant hero.

Trey Harbert and Emmanuel Marte Gil were sitting next to one another at lunch. As Emmanuel ate a chicken sandwich, a bite became lodged in his throat.

Trey said Emmanuel nudged him, and gave him the choke sign.

“He was really scared,” Trey said. “I was telling him everything was going to be okay but his face was red and turning purple.”

Emmanuel admits becoming panicky.

“I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I was hoping someone would save me,” he said.

Trey said he first told a teacher, who was two tables away, and then ran back to his lunch table and began to work on Emmanuel.

“I tilted the seat, told him to stand up and performed the Heimlich maneuver,” Trey said.

Trey said he performed the Heimlich hug several times before the food dislodged. But instead of popping out of his mouth, Trey’s extra force allowed the room for the chicken to clear his windpipe and be swallowed.

“Afterward I patted him on the back so he could cough and get all that excess air out,” said Trey, who admits to being an avid follower of the Science Channel when not playing outside linebacker on his football team. He said he wanted to make sure Emmanuel was all right.

“Something like this keeps the air in and that can make you feel bloated and give you internal bleeding,” he said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports


The school teaches the Heimlich maneuver in health classes, but Trey said he probably paid a bit more attention than a lot of his classmates — and said he is glad he did.

Trey has attended Valley View schools in Romeoville since kindergarten, but Emmanuel is new to the system. His family moved to Romeoville over the summer.

Parents and Principal Sarah DeDonato all say they are proud of Trey. And Trey now has a new friend for life.

“I’m glad he was there,” Emmanuel said. “He’s a hero.”

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