Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Jeff Hood presents Malik Gipson with a real firefighter’s helmet. Hood said the helmet has been retired from actual use.
Malik Gipson turned nine, Tuesday, and celebrated in a way most boys his age don't –– with an awards ceremony at the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department.
Gipson was recognized for using the Heimlich maneuver, in December, to save his brother's life. Michael Gipson, 2, was choking on a piece of peppermint candy when Malik Gipson used the technique to pop the candy out of his throat.
"I saved my brother's life, because I'm smart and I watched the TV show," he said.
The television show is "Pair of Kings," a popular Disney sitcom. Camellia Gipson, the boys' mother, said she didn't know her son was so knowledgeable.
"We're very happy he knew what to do," she said. "We knew all the time, if he didn't get help in time, no oxygen to the brain, we knew exactly what could happen. We were shocked he knew what to do."
The third-grader at Brown Elementary School got a hero's commendation from Chief Jeff Hood, a real firefighter's helmet and a sackful of patches and pins. Hood said he has no doubt Michael Gipson was alive and healthy, and running around the fire department headquarters in Riverdale, thanks to his brother's actions.
"It really was outstanding actions on his part," said Hood. "For someone his age, it's remarkable. We have an award ceremony every year for firefighters and citizens, but I don't remember ever recognizing someone that young for an act like this."
Malik's story, which appeared first in the Clayton News Daily, has attracted national attention. His family, including dad, Tronte Gipson, and 11-month-old sister, Mariah, have been invited to fly to New York City to appear on NBC's "Today Show." The Disney Channel wants to send him a basket of Disney items. Much and House, the public relations firm that works with one of the child actors on the show, wants to connect him with Malik Gipson.
"We work with Mitchel Musso from 'Pair of Kings' and we heard about Malik and how he saved his little brother’s life," said Anna Kreynes. "We think it’s amazing and so brave of Malik and we would love to connect Malik with Mitchel."
While Malik Gipson is aware that he saved his brother's life, he was low key, as Hood and his firefighters made a fuss over him. The entire Gipson clan got a tour of the fire station, and the boys were hoisted up to sit in the driver's seat of one of the trucks. They all surrounded Malik and sang "Happy Birthday" to him as he wore his fire helmet and smiled at all the attention.
As Michael ran around, touching the fire equipment, begging to go back into the fire truck, squealing and dancing, it was not lost on bystanders how quickly he could have been taken from his family.
"This is a lesson to everyone else to learn CPR," said Hood. "It wouldn't hurt everyone to take one [a course]."