Spring Hill, Florida — It was lunchtime at Fox Chapel Middle School in Spring Hill, and Deputy Michael Valenti was making his usual rounds. But there was nothing usual about lunch this past Tuesday.
“I felt a pat on my back,” Valenti said. Eight years as a deputy and now a resource officer, Valenti knew something was wrong.
“I started to choke out of nowhere,” said 14-year-old Christopher Gregory who had been eating a meatball sub.
Valenti said, “I could see his face was turning purple.”
“I was crying,” explained Gregory.
Valenti said, “He was gasping for air.”
“I thought I was going to die,” Gregory described what he was feeling at the time.
Valenti said, “He was obviously choking and couldn’t breathe.”
“My throat was hurting and I thought it wasn’t going to go down,” said Gregory.
So Valenti went into action. “At that moment, I just grabbed him.”
“He squeezed me,” said Gregory as Valenti started the Heimlich maneuver.
“By the fourth thrust, we were able to dislodge the food out of his mouth,” said Valenti.
“And half of the meatball came out and half of it was kind of swallowed and then the rest of it came out,” Gregory said.
“And the student began breathing again,” said Valenti.
“He’s a hero,” said Gregory.
Valenti credits his training for allowing him to remain calm and perform the Heimlich maneuver, and is thankful that Christopher Gregory will someday get to enjoy another meatball sub… just a bit slower.
Valenti says, “It felt very good to help save a life.”
Gregory said, “He saved my soul.”