New York Taco Bell employee credited with saving choking woman's life

Sarah Pelligrini often eats in her car given the nature of her job in the real estate industry. But on Monday, her routine turned harrowing when she began to choke on her food.

Struggling to breathe, Pelligrini immediately pulled over and ran into a Cicero, New York, Taco Bell – and was saved by a longtime employee she now calls her “guardian angel.”

“This woman – an angel to me right now – came whipping around the corner of the counter and started doing the Heimlich,” Pelligrini told WSTM-TV. “It was the difference, for me, of living or dying.”

The employee, Melinda "Mindy" Vice, said she “just went into action” when she saw Pelligrini couldn’t breathe.

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Pelligrini credits Vice for saving her life since no one else in the restaurant was formally trained in the Heimlich maneuver.

“It was the difference, for me, of living or dying."

— Sarah Pelligrini

“I don’t have words for the amount of gratitude in my heart. I’m so thankful for [Vice] and also the first responders and news reporters who played a part in this experience,” Pelligrini said in a Facebook post. “First aid is so important. Please brush up on your basic first aid skills, the life you save could be mine!!”

Pelligrini visited the restaurant again after the incident to thank Vice for her quick help. She told the Taco Bell employee she and her 8-year-old daughter will continue to pray and “thank God” for her.

“I’m just glad to know that you’re alright,” Vice said. “A person’s life is precious.”

Cicero is less than 10 miles north of Syracuse.