7-year-old girl on life support after choking on lunch at New York school

NEW YORK -- A 7-year-old girl is on life support after choking on her lunch at a New York school, and the EMT who tried to save her has been suspended from his job.

"I wish they would tell me the answer to what happened to my baby," said Ana Iris Santiago, Noelia-Lisa's mother.

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 of 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. He 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 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.

So far, there is no official response from the Department of Education.
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