“I can’t look at a piece of bacon now without reliving the day I almost choked on one,” said Heather Wilson.
It was late November, mild and overcast. Wilson and her friend Juli Foscoli had met for lunch at a local bistro in Salem to discuss projects they were working on as members of the National Association of Women in Construction, known as NAWIC.
As they tucked into their meal, Wilson had a fleeting thought on how long it was taking to chew and swallow her bacon cheeseburger. When Foscoli saw that Wilson was having difficulty, she asked if Wilson needed help.
“I got up from my seat and hovered a bit,” said Foscoli, mother of four and a member of the Community Emergency Response Team in Salem.
Wilson said, “I could hear my mom’s voice in my head about table manners. I smiled and shook my head ‘no’ and just chewed harder and tried to swallow the grisly bacon.”
But something went wrong.
“When I opened my eyes, instantly tears came down and blood came out of one of my nostrils. I think I had turned beet red and my blood pressure spiked,” said Wilson.
“Her face went purple-red,” confirmed Foscoli, “and she hadn’t taken a breath yet.”
Wilson gave the signal that she was choking.
This time, Foscoli went into action. She jumped up, took the appropriate stance behind Wilson and applied the Heimlich maneuver.
“Even though I had taken the Red Cross First Aid training course about seven years ago, it all surprisingly came back to me,” said Foscoli. “It all clicked into place.”
Wilson remembered clearly: “I just sat there. Juli came to my side of the table, put her knee on the seating area, hugged around me from behind and applied the first attempt.
Nothing happened so she re-positioned her hands. When Juli found the center of my rib cage, she moved her hands below it slightly and did two more squeezes.
The first happened quickly.
“On the second one I vomited my lunch and breathed . . . finally.”
Then Foscoli watched Wilson to be sure her friend was okay. After a few moments to collect herself, Wilson headed for the restroom to clean up.
“I was a walking biohazard with tears, blood and vomit fresh on me. I’ve had Red Cross training too, and I remembered to wash up not once, but twice, and clean the sink area.”
Both Wilson and Foscoli had time afterwards to feel shock by the near-fatal episode.
“My mind was racing with thoughts of my family and kids,” said Wilson. “My kids came so close to having to live with the story that their mother died choking on a piece of bacon in a restaurant. How lame is that?”
What disturbed the women most was how the staff and other patrons had not noticed a thing and, if they had, offered no assistance.
With the mess on the table, it was obvious something had happened, and yet the staff expressed no concern or asked if Wilson needed help.
“I feel like I am a confident and trained person to handle minor incidents,” stated Wilson. “I suspect that my lack of fear of blood would allow me to be okay in assisting with a major accident. But being on the receiving end had not crossed my mind. . .ever. . .not even once. Never in a million years did I think I would be on the receiving end of the Heimlich.”
To find information about courses you can take in first aid and CPR offered by the Red Cross, please visit our website at Red Cross Training. Other courses such as lifeguarding, swimming and water safety, babysitting, and so forth are also available.