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Man saves Uniondale girl, 4, from choking

Sabrina Beal, her granddaughter, Amaya Gardner, 4, and

Sabrina Beal, her granddaughter, Amaya Gardner, 4, and physical therapist assistant Nicholas Arevalo at the New York Spine Institute in Westbury on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A Uniondale family is praising a physical therapist assistant as a hero after he saved a 4-year-old girl from choking.

Nicholas Arevalo, who works at the New York Spine Institute in Westbury, performed the Heimlich maneuver on Amaya Gardner Monday after a piece of candy lodged in her throat, said her grandmother Sabrina Beal, 53.

“He’s a hero,” Beal said. “He saved her.”

Beal was on a bed for spinal physical therapy as her granddaughter galloped around the Westbury medical office, then gasped. A peppermint candy had blocked Amaya’s airway, Beal said.

Unable to breathe or speak, Amaya ran to her grandmother with a stricken look on her face.

“She wasn’t talking so I jumped off the table and I patted her on the back because I knew she had gotten candy,” said Beal, of Uniondale. “I tried to get her to cough the candy out, but she couldn’t even get air in.”

As Beal called for someone to dial 911, Arevalo went to Amaya and performed the Heimlich maneuver, Beal said.

Arevalo, 26, said he performed the procedure twice before his efforts dislodged the candy.

“She started to cough again and that’s what I was waiting for,” he said.

Beal said Amaya took a deep breath and said, “Grandma.”

“She fell right onto me, as if she had a really long, bad day,” Beal said.

Now, Amaya is fine after being checked out at a hospital.

For the grandmother and granddaughter, Arevalo is a “godsend,” Beal said. “I can’t imagine what would have happened to her.”

For Arevalo, it was a first: “I’ve taken a CPR class before, but you never think you’ll have to use it.”

With Laura Blasey

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