There wasn’t much unusual about Pat Kelley’s morning of shopping Friday until she stepped in to save the life of another shopper.
While at Goodwill on CC Camp Road, Kelley heard the sound of distress when she jumped into action. “I heard someone go, ‘Help!’ It sounded like a little kid,” described witness Patsy Pressler. “She was there Johnny-on-the-spot. [Kelley] wrapped her arms around her waist and said, ‘Are you ready?’ Without hesitation and with one pull, she saved that woman’s life.”
“She couldn’t talk. She couldn’t breathe,” illustrated Barbra Whittle, a registered nurse who was also a spectator to the event. “I could tell she was in serious trouble. She just went limp when [Kelley] grabbed her.”
Store Manager Ashley Coalson said, “She was over there shopping and chocked on a biscuit.” The victim told others she was on her way to a doctor’s appointment and was trying to work in a quick breakfast and some shopping first.
“It’s not something you think about, it’s just something you do,” professed Kelley, who learned abdominal thrusts through a previous job. “When I worked at the cable company, it was a required class,” explained Kelley. “It was a lot more simple than they showed in class. It worked a lot better than I thought it would.”
“She knew exactly what to do,” declared Pressler, who also praised the woman who raised the alarm for the victim. “The woman next to her was in shock. She probably doesn’t realize she saved that woman’s life.”
“You don’t think about it,” claimed Kelley, “you just do what has to be done.”
Abdominal thrusts can be performed by almost anyone. Through classes an individual cannot only learn how to save others who are choking, but themselves as well should they experience an airway obstruction without anyone else nearby. Special guidelines also can be learned for children and infants as well.
According to the American Red Cross, as long as a chocking victim is coughing, assistance should be withheld: coughing means air is still flowing though it may be restricted. Coughing is the body’s way of eliminating obstructions.
Observe the potential victim until they clear their airway or until they are no longer able to cough. Should the situation require intervention, five hard pats on the back should be administered. Should that not be sufficient, “Give five quick abdominal thrusts by placing the thumbside of your fist against the middle of the victim’s abdomen, just above the navel. Grab your fist with the other hand. Repeat until the object the person is choking on is forced out and person breathes or coughs on his or her own.”
“There was no way it would have come out with just a pat on the back,” claimed Pressler, a former rehabilitation aide. “There is no doubt in my mind that [Kelley] saved her life.”
“I think the woman knew she was about to die,” alleged Whittle.
“She was very grateful,” agreed Pressler.
“She said she was alright,” said Helen Meyers, an employee at Goodwill and a former member of the Austin Fire Department.
The identity of the woman who choked is unknown.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.