Practice what you teach

On the night of Dec. 8, Lane Community College health and physical education instructor Grady O’Connor used his skills in first aid to stop a man from choking. He performed first aid procedures on the man in the Egan Warming Center, a location on campus that provides meals, bathrooms, showers and bedding to anyone in need on cold nights.

According to O’Connor, a male guest at the warming center “was having a warm meal and started choking on a piece of bread.” O’Connor encouraged the man to continue coughing while he delivered “five back blows and five abdominal thrusts” on the victim. The latter five thrusts are often referred to as the Heimlich Maneuver.

O’Connor said that during the finals week that preceded the incident in the warming center, he had given an exam for his three-credit class that involved American Red Cross response and first aid techniques, including the Heimlich Maneuver. Before Dec. 8, O’Connor said, he had never had to act so quickly and instinctively to potentially save a life. “I guess my training kicked in,” O’Connor said. Eugene’s emergency medical services soon arrived.

O’Connor has been an instructor at Lane for over 20 years but returned to the college after a three-year hiatus from teaching.

He said that his experience on Dec. 8 highlights the importance of first aid response in the community.

The National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate people in the U.S. on health and safety, states on its website that 5,051 people died from choking in 2015. Food is a common cause of choking, which the website lists as “the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death” in the U.S.