NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — When Maddox Hopkins and Jack Pezza noticed their friend was choking, the high schoolers didn’t think twice before jumping into action.
It all started when Joe Walsh was offered a piece of watermelon during a lunch break at a rehearsal for a school musical.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it,'” Walsh recalled. “Then I coughed and it just went down [my throat].”
“When I started coughing, my vision started closing,” he continued. “I saw stars everywhere … I was scared.”
Walsh grabbed Hopkins’ shoulders for help, who noticed his friend was struggling to breathe.
Thankfully, he knew how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver.
“I was just like, ‘You sure you want me to do this?'” Hopkins recalled. “But he was choking and didn’t really respond to me.”
“He’s six-foot-six and I’m a short little dude who had to do [the Heimlich Maneuver on] him,” he continued.
It wasn’t easy, according to Hopkins, and saving Walsh’s life ended up being a two-man job.
“We thought everything was okay, and then Joe started choking again,” Pezza said.
Pezza then took over performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Walsh until he could breathe again.
“I genuinely don’t know if I’d still be alive without them,” Walsh said of his friends.
Hopkins and Pezza were honored at Monday night’s North Kingstown School Committee meeting for their heroic actions.
“I just want to tell them ‘thank you’ for the rest of my life because I get to live my life to the fullest,” Walsh said. “I wake up every day smiling, just happy that I’m alive.”
Both Hopkins and Pezza remain humble, hoping that anyone in their shoes would do the same.
“It’s not something you’re thinking about in the moment,” Pezza said. “I wanted him to be safe and I didn’t really care about anything else.”
“It’s something I would hope anyone would do for me, so I’d do it for anyone who needed it,” Hopkins added.