The moment chose Krystle Brown. A dietary aide, she sat alone at a table in the Pender Memorial Hospital cafeteria, about 10 minutes before its scheduled opening. A single co-worker sat at a nearby table quietly enjoying her lunch.
Krystle had just started checking the messages on her phone when her head snapped up. Her co-worker was making strange noises and appeared to be choking.
“Are you OK?” Krystle asked.
Her co-worker’s only response was a shake of her head.
Instinctively, Krystle ran over to the coworker’s table, knowing that she would need to employ the Heimlich maneuver. She yelled for Per Karlsen, Dietary Coordinator, but he was beyond earshot.
“I knew I had to help her right then and there,” Krystle said.
The co-worker stood up, and Krystle wrapped her arms around her. With a hand wrapped around her opposite fist, she thrust inward and upward in an effort to dislodge the food in the woman’s throat.
She tried again and again, continually lifting her co-worker off the floor as she tried to save her life.
“Lord, let me be doing this right,” she said. “I said, ‘Girl, we gotta get this out.’”
Krystle kept thrusting and kept yelling for help. On about the eighth attempt, she said, the food finally dislodged and her co-worker could breathe again.
Krystle, a dietary aide, wasn’t planning to save a life that day. Sometimes, though, the situation you are put in requires you to perform extraordinarily.
“I was surprised that the situation happened, but I wasn’t surprised that Krystle responded,” Per said.
“I just did what I would want anyone else to do,” Krystle said. “Anybody should respond if they can help.”
Krystle said she didn’t have special Heimlich training, but she remembers learning about it in school. With a smile, she adds that she was channeling “Mrs. Doubtfire,” the Robin Williams character who used the Heimlich maneuver to save a choking man in a fancy restaurant.
Stepping up to save a life might seem like a frightening ordeal, but Krystle said she didn’t have time to be scared.
“You just react,” she said. “You look around and there’s nobody else there, and you realize ‘It’s all on me.’”
Want to learn the Heimlich maneuver? Visit NHRMC.org/Heimlich.
Pictured: Pender Memorial Hospital Dietary Coordinator Per Karlsen with Dietary Aide Krystle Brown.