Where others might have panicked, Haleigh Hunt kept her cool. And for that, a friend may have her life to thank for it.
Last Friday, Haleigh and her friend Gianna McDonough, both fifth graders at the Hugh Cole School, were eating lunch together when Gianna started to choke on a small piece of pineapple.
“I could feel it stuck,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe.”
Haleigh looked at her friend, then around at others at the table, as Gianna started to choke.
“Everyone was kind of freaking out and they weren’t doing anything, but I kept calm,” she said. She remembered back to a health class two years ago during which she learned the Heimlich Maneuver, a way of dislodging objects stuck in choking victim’s throats. Remembering the lesson, she asked Gianna if she could talk.
“She didn’t say anything.”
A bad sign. So Haleigh jumped up, went around her friend’s back and pulled her out of her chair. Wrapping her arms around her, she stuck her fist under Gianna’s ribs and delivered several inward and upward pulls. As she did, the small piece of pineapple popped out, and her friend started breathing.
“I was so happy,” Haleigh said.
Later, when her mom asked her how her day went, Hayleigh still had her cool intact.
“She told me it was good, she saved someone’s life, like it was no big deal” said her mom, Lynn Hunt.
On Monday, Lynn, her mother and father and other family members came to Hugh Cole along with Gianna’s parents, as Haleigh and Gianna were recognized in front of a large assembly in the cafeteria. Warren Fire Chief Alexander Galinelli stood before the crowd of kids and spoke about Haleigh’s act of bravery, and he and the assembled crowd cheered as both walked to the front to be recognized.
“Haleigh, in the fire service, is what we call a hero,” the chief said.
Said Gianna, later:
“Haleigh’s my friend. I gave her a hug.”