Saving a Life

Last night I saved someone from choking to death.

I was in San Jose.  I had just finished up meeting with a potential client, and I was driving to another meeting.  I saw a little strip mall with a few restaurants just on my route, so I spontaneously pulled in for dinner.  I had never been there before.  It was just a random stop.

I debated between a pizza place and Vietnamese noodle soup shop, settling on the latter.

As I sat with my chicken noodle soup engrossed in my own thoughts, a young man at the table next to mine started choking.  I heard his female companion ask him, “Are you okay?”  He didn’t make any sound at all.  She stood up and kept asking, “Are you okay?  Are you okay?”  He wasn’t okay.  He was trying to cough, but couldn’t.  She attempted the Heimlich maneuver, but it appeared she wasn’t strong enough for it to work.  She kept asking, “Are you okay?”

I didn’t think very much.  I just heard the words very clearly arise inside of me, “Help him.”  I stood up and walked over.  It was a surreal moment.  Another stranger at a nearby table asked me, “Do you know how to do this?”  I think he was debating about helping, but was relieved that someone else was taking the lead.

I half-consciously flashed back to 8th grade health class:  “Several hard blows between the should blades with the heel of the hand to dislodge something in the windpipe.”  I raised my right hand and pounded on the young man’s back.

A wad of food broke free from his throat and flew out of his mouth.  Seeing this, his first words as he started breathing again were, “That was gross!”  Then something about how he almost passed out.  A powerful feeling of relief and joy flooded through me.  He was okay, it was over.  I wasn’t sure what to say.  I stood there awkwardly for a moment, then went back to my soup.

A few minutes later he thanked me for saving his life.

I haven’t really processed this experience yet.  For now I just wanted to share what happened.  I will say this—I am so grateful I chose noodle soup.