Massachusetts Divorced Dad Saves Daughter’s Life

From Dianne Williamson’s Dad saves her life and she”s proud of him (Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 2/15/11):

[Jerry] DiIorio, a Worcester firefighter, isn”t the most demonstrative of men…

“My dad is kind of shy,’ explained [daughter] Keslee, 14, a freshman at Shrewsbury High School. “But he”s a really good dad.’

Keslee”s parents have been divorced for nine years, and she lives with her mom. DiIorio sees his daughter whenever he can — usually on Mondays and Wednesdays, and every weekend when he”s not working and she”s free. He also picks her up from school every day. As noted by Keslee, he”s a really good dad.

He”s also a calm and coolheaded dad. Which is why Keslee was able to enjoy a meal with her father, and will likely enjoy many more to come.

Last Wednesday, DiIorio picked up his daughter as usual at her mom”s. Keslee had a friend over, so she was invited to join them for dinner. The girls sat in the backseat as DiIorio drove. Also in the backseat was a container of Atomic Fireballs, those oversized, red-hot hard candies. Keslee gave one to her friend and popped another into her mouth.

Suddenly, Keslee gasped. The Fireball got lodged in her throat and was obstructing an airway. She tried to swallow it and couldn”t; nor could she cough it up. She panicked. She was choking.

“It happened so fast,’ Keslee recalled. “I couldn”t breathe. I thought I was going to pass out.’

DiIorio heard his daughter gasp and quickly pulled the car to the side of the road. Urging her to stay calm, he jumped out, pulled his daughter from the passenger seat and spun her around so that her back was against his chest. Then he put his hands in the middle of her abdomen and pulled upward, hard. On the second thrust, the Fireball flew from her mouth.

Shaken but relieved, DiIorio handed his daughter a bottle of water.

“It seemed like a lifetime, but it was probably no longer than a minute,’ DiIorio said. “But it wasn”t a big deal. It”s just something we do. You go through the training and it kicks in. The only thing I thought about after was, ‘What if it didn”t work?” I”m just glad it did.’

So was Keslee, whose near-death experience only reinforced her pride in her firefighter father.

“I didn”t think the Fireball was going to come out,’ she said. “I”ve seen people do the Heimlich maneuver on TV, but I didn”t think it would work. If my dad hadn”t pulled over”…

How true. And one of the nicest parts of this small feel-good tale is the fact that it was brought to our attention by Keslee”s mom and DiIorio”s ex-wife. Deborah DiIorio was married to Jerry for 20 years, and they had two children together. And unlike many divorced spouses, they get along fine…

So now Keslee can look forward to the prom and playing field hockey and hanging out with her friends. She said she”ll never eat another Fireball as long as she lives, but she”ll continue to do what young girls do best — idolize their fathers. They just don”t always do it so publicly.

“He saved my life, and he saves a lot of people”s lives on a daily basis,’ Keslee said. “He”s a hero to a lot of people and he”s a hero to me.’

She added with a giggle, “If you have a bad haircut, he can be a hero then, too. He”s a really good person, and people should look up to him.’

No pun intended, but what a breath of fresh air all around.

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