There were some tense moments for the lunchtime crowd at the Pahrump Senior Center late last month when a diner got a piece of food lodged in her throat, essentially blocking her windpipe.
Adrienne Fors says she was eating pork and rice there on Feb. 27 when she literally bit off more than she could chew.
“The piece of pork was too big and I couldn’t chew it real good,” she said. “When I tried to swallow, it went down my throat and then then it got caught with the curve of my throat. Thank goodness Troy was there to do the Heimlich on me.”
She was referring to Pahrump Senior Center dishwasher Troy Smith Jr., who is certified in the Heimlich maneuver, a first-aid procedure for dislodging an obstruction from a person’s windpipe in which a sudden strong pressure is applied on the abdomen, between the navel and the rib cage.
To the rescue
At the time of the incident, Smith Jr. says he was talking to another worker at the center when they heard a commotion in the dining room.
“I heard a panic outside the door, and everybody was telling me that Adrienne was choking,” Smith Jr. recalled. “I was like,’Oh my God’ — so I jumped right into it and gave her the Heimlich maneuver.”
Smith is also trained in CPR — an emergency procedure where chest compressions are applied with mouth-to-mouth breathing to restore a person’s breathing who is in cardiac arrest — but says he fortunately didn’t have to administer it because he was quickly able to clear the obstruction.
“It was about two or three pumps before it dislodged and came through,” he said.
Fors described the experience as “terrifying,” and says Smith Jr. intervened shortly after another worker at the center, who had formerly served as a trained nurse, failed to dislodge the food using other methods.
“She tried to put her fingers down my throat to release it,” Fors said. “She tried to get down there and get a hold of it, three times but it was too far down. I couldn’t breathe, my face was turning red and my lips were turning purple.
Pahrump Senior Center Director Anne Blankenship was on the phone with 911 just as Smith Jr. rescued Fors.
“It was very terrifying to me, and I was shaking all the rest of the day,” she said.
As a result of the ordeal, both Smith Jr. and Fors noted that they have developed a friendship.
“I say thank you to him every single day because he’s such a sweet guy. He really is,” Fors said. “He checks on me me and asks ‘Are you OK? Is there anything I can do for you?’”
Smith Jr. says he’s glad he was there to help.
“Now she’s become a buddy, so I always make sure I check on her every day,” he said. “This kind of thing really puts life in perspective because anything can happen and you can be taken at any point in time.”
The rest of the story
As the old American adage goes, “No good deed goes unrewarded” —and it appears that karma was paying attention later that day.
Smith Jr., who also belongs to a bowling team at the Pahrump Nugget, said he bowled a respectable 299 that night — just one pin short of a perfect game.
Additionally, he won the 50/50 prize at the casino earning him $140.
As for Fors, she said that she didn’t finish her lunch that day, and has since altered her diet.
“I decided that I don’t want to eat pork anymore,” she said. “You just never know when something like that is gonna happen. I’m just glad I’m alive.”
Blankenship meanwhile, praised the efforts of Smith Jr. and additional staff members who came to the assistance of Fors.
“I’m so proud of our employees for all of their respective skills that they apply on the job each and every day,” Blankenship noted. “Without their efforts, it would be a big challenge to function properly and provide all of the crucial services for our area seniors.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes