ALICE, Texas — Derrek Bockholt carries a marble around with him wherever he goes.
It not only reminds him of the 2-year-old's life he helped save, but it reminds him how valuable his training as a Halo Flight paramedic really is.
"It's a one-inch piece of round glass, but that's all it would have taken to end his life," he said.
"He" is Roque Gallegos, and Bockholt and other Halo Flight staff were reunited with him and his family Monday at the Gallegos' home in Alice.
When an air flight is dispatched for a medical emergency, seconds matter, and the outcome isn't always ideal. But for the Gallegos family, an emergency air flight turned into a Christmas miracle.
The morning of Dec. 25 started off like any other morning: with laughter and children playing, as they prepared to spend time with family. But in a matter of seconds, that Christmas excitement turned to a horrific situation.
"I kinda saw him choking, so I ran to him, but I didn't know what to do," said Maryjo Gallegos, Roque's mom.
Gallegos said she saw her toddler choking, and gasping for air. Her husband tried to administer the Heimlich maneuver, but it didn't work.
They made a frantic call to 911. When they realized an ambulance wouldn't get to the hospital fast enough, a Halo Flight crew was dispatched and met the ambulance in San Diego.
It was a call that proved to be critical in saving a little boy's life.
"We made contact with them in the ambulance and performed the interventions necessary to reestablish his airway," said Halo Flight Paramedic Derrek Bockholt. "We then placed him in the aircraft and flew him to Driscoll Children's Hospital."
Once on-board, medications were administered and Bockholt was able to dislodge a marble little Roque had put in his mouth and swallowed.
For crew members, the 20-minute flight seemed like an eternity.
"We do train for pediatric emergencies through out the year," Bockholt said. "But actually having the patient in front of you, and time being of the essence for your interventions -- it's make or break time, if you will."
Monday was filled with mostly smiles, and some tears, as crew members and the Gallegos family reunited. For the flight crew, it validates that the work it does is makes a difference. For the Gallegos family, it was a chance to say 'Thank you,' and offer a warning for other parents about how quickly things can change.
"I would tell them just to be careful with little toys or anything like change, quarters or anything," Maryjo Gallegos said. "Just be careful."
Because of the work Halo Flight has performed, The Texas Department of State Health Services presented them with its 2019 EMS Air Medical Award.