Originally created 09/09/04

'Average teen' save's choking mother's life with Heimlich

Matt Cunningham is your average teenager.

His favorite hobby is playing video games. He likes watching TV, and his favorite subject at Tutt Middle School is lunch, although when pressured he'll admit that he likes math.

But to his mother, the 14-year-old is a lifesaver.

A few weeks ago, the Cunningham family was having a typical afternoon - Matt was watching TV with his 17-year-old sister, Lisa. Their mother, Julie, was in the kitchen cooking dinner, and their father was at work.

"I got a spoon and tasted the spaghetti sauce and choked on a chunk of meat," Mrs. Cunningham said. She tried to call for help, but the meat was lodged in her throat.

Lisa told Matt it sounded as though the family's cat was getting sick in the kitchen, so he went to see what was wrong and found his mother choking.

"I tried to do the Heimlich maneuver, but I don't think I did it right, and I think it just kind of hurt her," Matt said.

After Matt's attempt at the Heimlich, Mrs. Cunningham said, she tried to drink some water, but was unable to swallow.

"It was very, very scary," she said.

Matt attempted the Heimlich again, and that time it worked.

Mrs. Cunningham said she immediately felt better but will never forget not being able to breathe.

"I was so lucky Matt was home," Mrs. Cunningham said. "His father and I are real proud of him for how he handled the pressure."

Matt said he just "sort of knew what to do from seeing it on TV."

Matt has been trying to cash in for being a hero - saying he deserves an Xbox video game system, but his parents say no.

"Next time, he'll probably move a lot slower if he hears somebody getting sick in the kitchen, because he hasn't gotten that Xbox," Mrs. Cunningham said with a smile. "You can be sure I've learned to chew more next time."

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