BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (4/21/10) – Terry Brown, a state-employed custodian who cleans Colorado Air National Guard facilities, was enjoying a hamburger in the breakroom in building 830 here on April 13 when something went horribly wrong.
“I had exhaled and I started coughing, then I inhaled a piece of the hamburger into my esophagus,” Brown said.
Brown’s co-worker, custodian Judy Rico, was also eating her lunch at that table. She realized his plight, hastily darted to him and began smacking his upper back.
“He was real red in the face,” Rico said. “It kind of scared me.”
After a few hard whacks on the back, Brown coughed up his partially masticated morsels.
“It had clogged everything up.… It seemed like I was choking for an eternity, but it was probably only 20 seconds. I was scared,” Brown said.
Brown can’t thank Rico enough for saving his life, “so much so that I bought her a half gallon of ice cream,” he said. “I can only say ‘thank you’ so many times. My vocabulary can only carry the message so far.”
Rico said she only did what anyone would do in such a dire emergency.
“I would do the same for anyone who was in the same situation,” she said. “My instincts took over.”
Brown said from now on he’ll take smaller bites and drink plenty of fluids with his meals.
For more information about choking and how to help, visit http://www.redcross.org.
Army Staff Sgt. Scott Griffin contributed to this article.