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Bakersfield doctor saves choking diner with pen and knife

September 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
When the Heimlich maneuver didn't work on a choking woman at a restaurant, a doctor jumped in to save her life with just a pen and knife and little time to spare.

Former Kern County Supervisor Pauline Larwood was enjoying a steak dinner at The Mark restaurant when all of a sudden she began choking. Several people, including a server named J.R., tried to help dislodge the potentially deadly piece of meat.

"Somebody tried to give her the Heimlich and they weren't big enough, so J.R., who's a pretty big guy, came behind her looking for the right spot to no avail. And then it's the whole, 'Is there a doctor in the house?'" said Ro Fernandez of The Mark.

It turned out the restaurant was packed with doctors who were in town for a conference. Dr. Royce Johnson, Kern County Medical Center's chief of infectious diseases, realized he needed to act. Fernandez says the doctor grabbed a knife.

"They put her on the ground and put a steak knife by the blade, made the incision. J.R., he's looking for a pen that would work. These new pens, they're all fancy, so finally found an old pen, they took the ink out, put it in there," Fernandez said as he gestured toward his neck.

Fernandez says the emergency tracheotomy came in the nick of time. Larwood's lips were turning blue. Once she gasped for air, the other customers breathed a sigh of relief. The procedure was successful and saved her life.

"A lot of people kind of really lost their appetite so they packed everything to-go. At the end, everybody was grateful that everything turned out the way it did," said Fernandez.


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