Seven Off-Duty First Responders Save Choking Man


When first responders are off-duty, they do not automatically turn off their instincts and training. They still observe everything that goes on around them and are there to lend a hand when needed.

Today, a New Jersey man is very thankful that first responders happened to be in the same restaurant as him.

A Meal Out…

A man was sitting enjoying his steak at 9:30 p.m. in a Rahway Restaurant in New Jersey when he suddenly began to choke. The woman who was with him began to pat him on the back in an attempt to help him.

It was the woman’s attempt to assist that garnered the attention of off-duty Elizabeth EMS Amber Henderson. According to the Daily Voice, Henderson said, “I happened to look over and saw a woman standing up and hitting a man on the back.”

She said she stood up to see if the man had dislodged the food on his own. However, she was acutely aware of the fact that he was still choking. She went over and began to perform the Heimlich.

She said, “… a small chunk of food came out, but he was still choking-and there was much more left inside.” Henderson realized she needed to do more but was unsure of how to proceed on her own.

An Extra Set of Hands

Lucky for the man and Henderson, off-duty officer Eddie O’Donnell rushed over, identified himself as an officer, and took over helping. However, the food still would not come out of the man’s throat.

O’Donnell realized he had seen another off-duty EMS Medic, Justin McGee, and called across the restaurant for his assistance. It turns out four other off-duty medics were there too.

Peter Dudek, Elizabeth Buckridee, Jacob kay, and Andrew Buchanan all took turns attempting the Heimlich on the man.

“The [victim] started getting weak in the legs and was falling, and the Heimlich doesn’t work unless you’re standing. We realized CPR would have to get started.”

Officer Eddie O’Donnell

One medic retrieved a suction machine from his car, and the restaurant gave the others an AED. By the time the ambulance came, the man was ready to go with them. The piece of steak was removed inside the ambulance.

Coincidence or Right Place Right Time?

While none of the first responders planned on eating at the restaurant together that night, a man is alive today because they were.




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