Christmas Day is a day when families are together making memories and spending time together. The Gallegos family of San Diego did just that, but in a different way than one would think.
As the family prepared to leave their home, just outside the San Diego city limits, and head to a family gathering things changed in the blink of an eye.
Two-year-old Roque Gallegos who had been running around playing suddenly got quiet and started to turn blue. He had swallowed a small green marble and it got lodged in his airway.
MaryJo Gallegos, Roque’s mother, and her husband didn’t know what to do. According to MaryJo, her husband and brother attempted to help her son, but that didn’t do much.
"All of a sudden I see him choking and I panicked," MaryJo said as she tried to hold back tears. "I just think about it everyday. I’m thankful for you all. It was a nightmare. I was already preparing for the worst. I though I lost him."
9-1-1 was called and the San Diego first responders arrived, but they were having trouble getting Roque to open his mouth. HALO-Flight was called. The crew prepared for the worse but were hoping for the best. HALO-Flight picked up Roque in San Diego and took to the skies going about 130 miles per hour. In approximately 22 minutes Roque was at the Driscoll Children’s Hospital.
"We were preparing for the worst on the way in and we were discussing things. I was like hope it doesn’t get to that point, but if so let’s do this, this and this. When we got there (we knew) it was going to get to that point. As soon as we laid eyes on him," said HALO-Flight Medic Derrek Bockholt. "I can’t give enough credit to the ground EMS and the first responders that got to him before us because had they not been there to intervene, we wouldn’t have the success we did. The stuff they did before we made contact with him was paramount in his survival....Given the critical state (Roque was in) our pre-plan went into action...We were able to get in there and retrieve the object."
Bockholt has carried the marble in his pocket since the incident occurred. It reminds him of how quickly things can change and how precious life is.
Roque was discharged from Driscoll Children’s Hospital after being in Intensive Care Unit for a day.
"He woke up ripping everything off. He was already talking; he wanted water," MaryJo said. "He doesn’t sit down. He does like 50 laps in my living room. He’s just running and running and running. I’m like are you tired."
After speaking with the doctor at Driscoll Children’s Hospital she learned that Roque was with her and her family because of the tireless efforts of the HALO-Flight crew. She knew right away she wanted to meet the crew.
So on Monday afternoon MaryJo, Roque and Roque’s brothers met with the entire HALO-Flight crew, from dispatcher and pilot to the medics, where they were given the chance to thank them in person.
"Even driving by myself, going to work, I think about everything and I’m just crying and crying, but I’m grateful he’s here," MaryJo said. "I’m grateful for them (HALO-Flight crew). I don’t know how many thank you’ I can give."
The Gallegos boys gave the HALO-Flight crew Lifesaver candies - a symbol of what they mean to the family.