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North Forney HS student saves classmate’s life with Heimlich maneuver


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    FORNEY (KTVT) — A routine day turned out to be anything but for North Forney High School junior Charles Atwood.

It was at lunch when he started choking on a meatball and didn’t know what to do. In exclusive video shared by Forney ISD with CBS News Texas, Atwood can be seen choking and pointing at his throat.

In an interview with CBS News Texas, he admits, “I was panicking … gasping for air and stuff.”

NFHS senior Gustavo Rubio was also in the cafeteria, close enough to know something was wrong. “I look at Charles choking and there’s a student yelling ‘teacher teacher teacher,'” Rubio said.

With no teachers in the immediate vicinity, Atwood becomes is frantic because he knows he’s running out of time.

“Next thing you know, I fall back down. I lose complete control of my body and my eyesight goes black,” he said.

“My thought was ‘this is my time,'” Atwood said. “God has wanted me to come up to heaven.”

But Rubio was not about to let that happen. He raced over, lifted Atwood onto his feet and performed the Heimlich maneuver. He learned the life-saving skill during his time as a volunteer with the Rockwall Fire Department.

Sharon Russell, the school nurse at NFHS, was in her office when she was alerted that a student was choking. She’s thankful Rubio was in the right place at the right time.

“I did cry. I was so overwhelmed with it all, even when I got home that day,” she said.

Adding to the emotion is the fact that Rubio, a senior defensive end for the school’s football team, didn’t just save a friend – he saved a teammate.

“We tell everybody, when you wake up in the morning, God gives you two things. He gives you a chance and a choice,” NFHS football head coach Eric Luster said. “Right then and there, that guy made a choice to give him another chance.”

When asked how the adulation of everyone complimenting him on something that seemed to come naturally, Rubio answers, “It feels amazing. A lot of people just look at me and just point and say, ‘you’re a hero.’ It makes me feel good inside.”

It might’ve been Rubio’s first chance to save a life, but it won’t be his last. We will enter the DeSoto Fire Academy upon graduation in May, with a goal of being a full time firefighter and EMT.

“That’s what my parents haven’t always told me. Make a difference, wherever you go. It doesn’t matter if it’s small or big. just make a difference,” Rubio said.

All too often, we’ve seen examples of young lives taken too soon. It’s rejuvenating for the soul to witness the good that still exists in young people.

Atwood urges people to “block out all the negativity and bring it back positive, because you can put out kindness and kindness can come back to you.”

Atwood and Rubio will always share a bond, because of one special moment that changed both of their lives forever.

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