“I slid down to the floor when I could breathe again,” says McTighe. “I was crying and shaking and so thankful that Leslie knew exactly which steps to take. It was a close call, I was terrified.”
Every day in hospitals and clinics across the country, healthcare providers save lives. They diagnose serious illness requiring prompt intervention. They treat life-threatening trauma such as heart attack and stroke.
What happened in the laboratory at Wickenburg Community Hospital (WCH) on a Tuesday morning in May was equally serious, and a demonstration of how WCH providers care for patients AND care for one another.
Karla McTighe is a phlebotomist at WCH and started her shift at 5:00 am. At about 7:00 am, she was hungry, so she took a quick break to have breakfast. A piece of bacon stuck in her throat. Karla thought if she took a sip of water, she could wash down the bacon and finish her meal.
“I took a swig of water and realized I was in trouble,” says McTighe.
When the water came right back up and she couldn’t breathe, Karla put her hands on her throat which is the universal distress signal for choking. That is when Leslie Thurman, also a phlebotomist, saved the day and very possibly saved Karla’s life.
“Karla put her hands on her throat, and she was turning purple,” says Thurman. “I knew right away I needed to dislodge whatever was obstructing her airway.”
Thurman performed abdominal thrusts. The term Heimlich maneuver was replaced by abdominal thrusts in 2006 when guidelines for the technique were changed. Thrusts are taught alongside cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in life support classes taken by every employee at WCH. Thurman recounts that there was no time to think, she reacted by taking swift, decisive action.
“The first time I tried, I was not able to dislodge the food,” says Thurman. “I tried again, and it popped out and landed on the floor.” Karla was relieved and happy.
“I felt like a super-hero. I was so happy!” says Thurman.
McTighe agrees that her colleague and friend is a hero, and she goes one step further, “I can’t thank her enough. She’s my guardian angel.”
Although the incident lasted just seconds, Thurman knew exactly what to do because of continuing medical education at WCH. She has never had to perform abdominal thrusts or CPR at work despite being at the Hospital for 15 years.
At WCH, our goal is to be an example in our community of what true compassion and dedication stand for. The staff provides excellent care for our patients and strives to create an environment that emphasizes care and support for one another. The bond that exists among the staff at WCH goes beyond professional obligations; it is rooted in a genuine concern for the well-being of our colleagues.
Did you know a choking death occurs every two hours and choking causes over 100,000 visits to the ER yearly?
Below are three actionable tips to help you be mindful and lower your risk of choking:
Eat and drink slowly.
Chew your food thoroughly.
Avoid talking or laughing when you have food in your mouth.
When someone is choking, time is of the essence. If you or a loved one is choking, the most important first step is to remain calm and Dial 911 immediately.