It was a relatively quiet morning in the dining center, filled with dishes clinking and the burble of conversation slowly kneading the air. However, the lull snapped to panic in a matter of moments.
“I’m sitting there eating breakfast, and I hear noise, and don’t think anything about it,” said Steve Santo, dining center manager. “Then everybody stood up.”
The quick thinking of Kandace Wheeler, Sodexo barista, saved fellow food service worker Lynetta Logan from choking Friday morning in the Ottawa University dining center, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa.
Like Santo, Logan was enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs.
“I was just sitting here eating breakfast, and then all of the sudden, I went to take a breath and it got stuck,” Logan said. “I just couldn’t get it back up.”
Logan began coughing uncontrollably.
“I was just making drinks,” Wheeler said. “I heard her coughing. I kinda looked, and then went back to what I was doing. She started really coughing. I heard someone say ‘She’s choking!’”
Another employee ran to Logan’s aid, but was unable to successfully perform the Heimlich maneuver, a method for helping choking victims dislodge a blocked airway.
“She couldn’t help her, so I came running around there and started doing the Heimlich maneuver,” Wheeler said. “My only thought was to save her, to just try and help her.”
This time, the maneuver worked.
“[The blockage] came up, and she said she was OK, but I just kept asking her if she was OK,” Wheeler said. “Afterwards I went to the back and shook a little bit, and had a couple of tears roll down. Then I came back here, washed my hands and continued to work.”
This wasn’t the first time she had encountered a choking victim, Wheeler said — the same thing happened to her father when she was in high school.
If someone appears to be choking, Wheeler said, never hesitate.
“If you see someone choking, try to help.”