Off-duty firefighter saves woman choking at restaurant

The 22-year veteran said it was the first time he's administered the Heimlich maneuver


By Elizabeth Dinan
The Portsmouth Herald

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — When Sharon Green began choking on a piece of bread, during lunch at Grill 28, she lucked out by having the medical emergency near an off-duty firefighter. 

Dining nearby was Portsmouth firefighter Rick Condon, who said he noticed Green had "the look" of distress and saw her mouth the words, "I'm choking," when he rushed over to give her the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the bread and saving the day.

Green said she and a friend were having lunch on April 29, after a morning of golf, when some bread from her fish sandwich stuck in her throat. She said she "had her wits about me" when she stood up and began walking toward the ladies room, twice whispering to her server that she was choking. 

Condon said he was dining at a table when he saw "the look" on Green's face and noticed she was turning red. He said he got up, "pushed the hostess out of the way," spun Green around and gave her two rounds of the Heimlich maneuver. After the second one, he said, she put her hands up to indicate she was fine. 

"It was literally over in seconds," Condon said. 

Green said the bread dislodged and she swallowed it. 

"I gave him a big hug and everyone started clapping," she recalled.

Condon said he didn't know anyone else was watching until he heard the applause. A 22-year Portsmouth firefighter, he said it was the first and only time he's administered the Heimlich maneuver and he was pleased to see it work. He said the Heimlich maneuver is part of a firefighter's training but should also be "basic training for everybody." 

Green said she returned to her table where her friend asked, "What happened?" 

"She thought I was sneezing," said Green, a Greenland resident, who said she then resumed eating her lunch. 

"Very slowly," she added. 

"I was watching," Condon said. "Believe me."

Green said she works at the Portsmouth Hallmark store, where she bought Condon a thank you card. She said her Grill 28 waitress later came into the store as a customer, recognized her and confessed she doesn't know how to administer the Heimlich maneuver. 

Green said she wrote a "kiss" about Condon for the Portsmouth Herald because she wants him, and all fire and police responders, to "be appreciated for what they do."

Fire Chief Steve Achilles said Condon will be commended for his off-duty lifesaving action which proves that everyone should familiarize themselves with that and other lifesaving measures. 

Copyright 2016 Portsmouth Herald

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