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On what should have been her son's birthday, mother recounts his last moments: 'Traumatizing'

Posted at 6:10 PM, Mar 08, 2023

CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- A Chesterfield family is finally getting some answers, nearly a month after their son died three days after suffering a medical emergency at Providence Middle School.

The Nolasco family recently viewed security camera footage detailing what happened in the cafeteria that day when their 13-year-old son, Josue, choked on a meatball sandwich.

Prior to speaking with the school's principal and viewing video footage, the family had several questions about what happened to their son, including how long it took for a school staff member to render aid and how long it took for school staff to call 9-1-1.

On Tuesday, March 7, the day Josue would've turned 14, his mother Karina detailed what she saw from that day.

On what should have been her son's birthday, mother recounts his last moments: 'Traumatizing'

"My husband asked me many times, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' Because we know that these were the last moments my son had. I told him, 'Yes,' because I didn't want to have doubts," Nolasco said.

Nolasco said she saw her son get up from the lunch table after taking two bites, approach a staff member who had her back to him and tap her on the shoulder. That staff member then performed the Heimlich maneuver.

"What I can see is that the teacher tried twice, and when she saw that she could not help him, you can see that she points for him to go towards the nurse's office. And you can see my son running for his life. Behind him, the teacher is following," Nolasco said.

Nolasco said Josue did make it to the nurse's office but then passed out, unconscious.

According to the video, Nolasco said, three minutes pass until EMS arrive. Roughly three or four minutes pass until they leave for the hospital, where Josue passed away.

The family said they were told a piece of the food Josue was eating lodged in his lung and trachea, which limited oxygen to the brain.

Dr. Subodh Pandey, a pulmonologist with the University of Virginia said in 2020, there were 5,000 deaths in the U.S. related to foreign body asphyxiation.

"It's very common to have foreign body inhalation and foreign body asphyxiation, especially in a younger population, especially below 19 years of age. It's more common," Dr. Pandey said.

The family was told there are no cameras in or near the nurse's office, due to privacy reasons.

The principal told the family that he and the school's assistant principal performed the Heimlich maneuver on their son and a portion of the food did come out.

The family now wonders if that could've happened sooner had he not run.

"Those are crucial minutes, seconds, that he ran. My God, those images, to see my son run for his life, that's traumatizing," Nolasco.

Nolasco said the principal told the family repeatedly that an adult was with Josue at all times.

Chesterfield's School Board policy requires each school to have plans that include staff certified to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

The family is now hoping for this:

"To be equipped for every emergency. Truly, I don't want anyone to go through what I've gone through," Nolasco said.

On what should have been her son's birthday, mother recounts his last moments: 'Traumatizing'

Due to FERPA requirements, CBS 6 cannot independently obtain the security camera footage as it relates to educational matters and the privacy and health of students.

CBS 6 reached out to the school system for more information on the matter but did not receive a response.

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