‘I’m a mom. My natural instincts kicked in’

A Long Island school lunch monitor credited her motherly “instincts” for saving a second grader who began choking on a slice of pizza.

Francesca Augello, a six-year lunch aide at Wood Park Primary School in Commack, made her normal rounds in the cafeteria Friday when one of the students in her care seemed off, NBC New York reported.

Wood Park Primary School lunch aide Francesca Augello is being credited as a hero for saving a choking student on Friday. NBC New York

“He was just staring at me so I asked if he was OK. He didn’t respond,” Augello told the outlet.

That’s when the horrified teacher realized 7-year-old Grayson Molina was choking on his food.

“He just opened his mouth, he couldn’t talk, so right then I knew he was choking.”

The mother of three quickly jumped into action and gave the boy the Heimlich maneuver, clearing the blocking from the boy’s throat and, ultimately, saving his life.

“I’m a mom. My natural instincts kicked in so I did what I did. I saw a child needing help and I helped him,” Augello said.

The aide and student were reunited in the cafeteria on Tuesday, and the young seventh grader said he was “grateful” that Augello was there to help him.

7-year-old Grayson Molina was saved by the aide after he started choking on a slice of pizza during lunch. NBC New York
The boy and his parents, Alexa and Paul Molina, got to thank Augello in person on Tuesday. NBC New York

“She saved his life,” Grayson’s mother, Alexa Molina, emotionally explained. “She did exactly what she would’ve done if it was her children. So our family is eternally grateful.”

The aide’s actions went beyond just stepping in to save the second grader’s life.

“To know that people think and care about others and want to make sure you are doing OK, it makes you proud to be here,” the boy’s father, Paul Molina told the outlet.

“They’re like family and actually care and love our children just like we would,” the mother said of the aides working at the Long Island primary school.

Augello credited her motherly “instincts” for saving the second grader’s life. NBC New York
Augello’s quick reaction to give the boy the Heimlich maneuver saved the boy’s life. NBC New York

Grayson, who was fine after being saved by Augello, told the outlet he’ll always remember to chew his food more thoroughly — and that he’ll be skipping pizza for lunch.

The parents stressed that though the incident with their son had a happy ending, it should be looked at as an example for those who work with children that the Heimlich maneuver is a must-know technique.

New York State requires at least one staff member in every school building to “be trained in the administration of the Heimlich maneuver” and “be present in the same room while students eat meals.”

The most common cause of nonfatal choking in young children is food.

At least one child dies from choking in the US every five days, with more than 12,000 children being taken to the hospital each year for food-choking injuries, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Though children can choke on many foods, caregivers should also be mindful that food size, texture, and shape pose a threat.

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