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Boy honored for saving younger brother with Heimlich maneuver

Courtesy of the Gipson family

Malik Gipson, left, with his great grandmother Elaine, and younger brother Michael.

By Jessica Blank
NBC News

Malik Gipson is not only celebrating his ninth birthday today, he’s also being honored for saving his two-year old brother from choking.

Malik and his younger brother, Michael, were visiting their great-grandmother at her home in Jonesboro, Ga., in December when Michael became envious of a piece of hard peppermint candy that Malik was eating. So Michael took a piece, put it in his mouth -- and started to choke.

Their great-grandmother, 66-year-old Elaine Pines, was watching Malik, Michael, and their 11-month old sister, Mariah, while the children’s parents worked outside in the front yard. 

"Just as I looked around, Michael was slobbering at the mouth,” Pines told msnbc.com.  “And I said, 'Malik! He swallowed it.'” 

Seeing that his great-grandmother was holding their baby sister in her arms, Malik sprung to action and performed the Heimlich maneuver on his brother. 

"I was scared. I was thinking he was going to pass away,” Malik said. “I grabbed him by the chest and kept doing the Heimlich maneuver and kept doing it until it came out.”  On Malik’s third attempt, the peppermint flew across the floor.

At the time, Pines said, she was “a nervous wreck."

"Malik ran to get his mom and dad outside and told them what happened,” she said. 

At first, Camellia and Tronte Gipson were confused by the sight of Malik in the front yard, holding a peppermint candy. 

“We didn’t think it was anything at first, but when Elaine came to the door, she was shaking and frantic,” said Camellia Tronte.  “But Michael still had color in his face and he was breathing, so we didn’t call an ambulance.”

Courtesy of the Gipson family

Camellia Gipson, Tronte Gipson and their children Malik, Michael, and Mariah.

“The night of the incident, we were sitting in the car, and Michael said, ‘Malik saved my life.’ And it brought me to tears,” said Camellia.  “For a two-year old to say something like that, at that moment, it was very touching.”

In hopes of recognizing Malik’s bravery his parents called the Clayton County fire department. Camellia shared her son’s story, and the fire department organized a ceremony in honor of Malik today, his birthday.

“I’m going to the fire department to get an award. I’m excited,” Malik said. When asked where he learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver, Malik simply said, “I watched a TV show on Disney XD."

In a ceremony attended by the Gipson’s family and friends, Fire Chief Jeff Hood will present Malik with a certificate, rewarding him for his courage and bravery.

“Throughout my career in public safety and as Fire Chief, I have had the opportunity to shake the hand of many brave men and women that serve our community with honor, courage and commitment.  Today, I have had the privilege to shake the hand of another brave young man, Malik Gipson,” Hood said in a statement provided to msnbc.com. “His actions were of those seasoned with maturity and that same honor and courage.  Malik is an example to all his peers and even the professionals, that it is our dedication and commitment to one another that makes human life so dear.”

Malik will also be given a fireman helmet and a special tour of the Fire Department while surrounded by his friends, his relatives, and of course, his great-grandmother.

“I’m excited about him getting the award because he did a wonderful job,” Pines said. 

Malik age 8, Michael age 2, and their baby sister Mariah 6 months