“I just can’t thank him enough. He saved my son’s life.”
Those were the heartfelt words of a Sunderland mum to the shopping centre security guard who sprang into action when her son began to choke.
Sarah Gray, 25, was having breakfast with three-year-old Jayden Percy at Esquires cafe in The Bridges in Sunderland, when he started to struggle while eating a sausage.
Sarah, from Thorney Close, desperately tried to force the food free from his throat before her sister Claire Dwyer, 35, took over.
It was then that security guard Carl Simpson stepped in and used his first aid training to help the youngster breathe again.
The terrifying incident took place on Saturday, April 28, and a week later Jayden returned to meet his hero for the first time since it happened.
Full-time mum Sarah said: “I can’t thank him enough for what he has done. Jayden is fine now and running around like he should be.
“The hospital said everything was OK, just that his gland were a bit swollen.
“I have done first aid training in the past, but it was just the shock when it happens to your own child - I was numb from the panic.
“I am so grateful to Carl for what he has done - he saved Jayden’s life. We have made a friend for life.”
Sarah’s sister Claire added: “If Carl hadn’t been there it could have been a lot worse.”
Carl, 43, from Grindon, has worked at the centre for five years. He and his colleagues were carrying out their usual checks as the centre opened for the day, when the incident took place.
Using his first aid training he learnt from company OCS, Carl performed the Heimlich manoeuvre and slapped Jayden’s back until the food was dislodged.
It was only later that day when he watched back the CCTV footage that Carl realised the magnitude of what he had done.
Carl said: “I am glad to see that he is fine and doing OK.
“Understandably everybody was shocked at the time, so I am glad to see that he is back to normal.
“It was when I watched the CCTV footage that it surprised me and I realised the magnitude of what went on.
“At the time it didn’t really affect me, but it did later on in the day when everybody was giving me the feedback.
“I am likely to see Jayden all the time as he is a regular here.”