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Miracle on Smith St.: Parents, first responders recall choking incident that left toddler pulseless for six minutes

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:43 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The family of a Green Bay toddler calls their little boy a walking miracle after they say he survived six minutes with no pulse and no breath after he choked on a piece of bread.

His parents and first responders credit each other for saving the life of Gamaliel Martinez.

”I don’t remember if he died in the ambulance or in the house, because we noticed when he was in the house, he had no pulse,” recalls Mayra Martinez, Gamaliel’s mother.

Gamaliel is a typical toddler.

He loves to play.

He may be a little shy around our camera.

He adores his big brother.

At just 18-months of age, he likely won’t remember July second, the night his family says he died.

His parents will never forget it.

Dispatcher: “911. What is the address of your emergency?”

Mayra: “Could we get an ambulance, please? We have an 18-month baby choking. He’s purple already!”

A panicked mother, desperate for help, pleads with 911 dispatchers to save her choking child.

Mayra: “He’s not breathing. I need an ambulance. Please!”

”I knew something was wrong, because he was just staring at me, but he was not moving. He was just very still,” says Mayra. “I’m like, baby, are you ok?”

”I was in the living room with my brothers and my dad was like, he’s choking, he’s choking!” recalls Gamaliel’s oldest brother, Sergio.

”But when he sees me, his eyes... and he’s purple and everything,” says the boy’s father, Alfredo Martinez. “You start to pray and tell God, please don’t get it.”

Alfredo starts CPR on his son, while his wife, Mayra calls 911.

Mayra, on 911 call: ”He’s not breathing. He’s already dead!”

Dispatcher: “Ma’am I have help on the way.”

Officer Zach Koch is on patrol in downtown Green Bay.

”When I got the call, I started heading that way and then when they said the child wasn’t breathing, that’s when I kicked ‘er into high gear and just got there,” says Officer Koch.

Koch somehow arrives just ahead of paramedics, putting Gamaliel’s life in his hands.

”I’ve never seen a young infant that blue, purple, discolored, and obviously in distress,” says Koch. “I’ve never seen that before. He was not breathing when I came in.”

”All of my kids, they were crying. They’re like, mom! He’s dead! He’s dead!” remembers Mayra.

Koch takes over CPR until Green Bay Metro firefighters arrive.

Gamaliel still has no pulse and is not breathing.

”They put him in the ambulance. He left and me and my brothers, we were just praying in the living room, being like, God, please help us. I still want to play with my brother, and please don’t take him right now. He’s too young,” says Sergio.

Alfredo remembers saying, “God, please don’t take him. Not yet, please.”

Officer Koch rushes Alfredo and Mayra to the hospital, just behind the ambulance.

”I took them into the main entrance of the hospital and told them they had to wait there,” he says. “I stood outside of the room as they continued to render aid to the child. Eventually the baby started crying and it was just... I was elated... overwhelmed with emotion.”

”When he died, his heart stopped for six minutes, too. Six minutes. After six minutes he start breathing again,” say Mayra.

But it was the CPR Alredo started and Koch and firefighters continued that kept Gamaliel’s blood circulating, giving him life.

”No doubt in my mind that helped, helped tremendously. He helped save his own son,” says Koch.

Myra says they now know Gamaliel choked on that piece of bread because of problems with his tiny airways, likely from being born eight weeks premature.

She expects her son to have surgery soon to prevent him from choking again.

Gamaliel’s family can’t thank first responders enough.

Alredo has these words for the officer.

”We want to pray him the blessing for his job and he’s doing good job, and thank you so much.”

Officer Koch is being given a Wings of Life Award for helping save Gamaliel.

”Thanks to God, he’s alright. He’s alive right now. He’s playing with us,” says Sergio.

”I think it’s just a miracle from God,” says Mayra. “I see him and I just thank God every day that I see him, because it’s a really big blessing.”

They’ve always thought of Gamaliel as a blessing.

That’s how he got his name.

”We got it from the bible because we know he was going to be a preemie,” explain Mayra. “It means ‘my blessing comes from God.’”

Never has it been more fitting.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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