Seconds in response time, two CPR-certified police officers and a critical-care EMT just minutes from the scene, made for a life-saving event at Koenig’s Restaurant on the weekend before Thanksgiving. “It was just one of those rare times when everyone was tied up,” said Floral Park Police Sergeant William Doherty. He said the officers on the shift were assigned to other calls when the emergency dispatcher received a call for a choking victim at 1:41 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Doherty said when he arrived, he found the 86-year-old victim slumped over on the floor inside the restaurant, and “turning all shades of blue and purple; completely unresponsive.” He called for the ambulance dispatch at 1:43 p.m.
The woman had been dining with her family who had been visiting from Connecticut, a regular pre-holiday tradition for her.
He began with a back thrust maneuver, which was not working to loosen the lodged food. He immediately switched to the Heimlich maneuver, at which time Officer Naughton arrived. The officers laid the victim down and began abdominal thrusts again.
“We’ve been to Koenig’s [and other local restaurants] a hundred times for choking and it’s usually never anything by the time we arrive,” said Officer Naughton. “We have to treat every call like the real thing though; when I saw the sergeant on the ground with the victim, I knew it was the real deal.”
Naughton, a certified CPR instructor, suggested chest compressions; the victim’s pulse was undetectable. He took over chest compressions while Sergeant Doherty positioned her head and chin to prepare for breathing assistance. Doherty recalls then seeing an obstruction, a large piece of meat, lodged deep in the woman’s throat. He was able to remove the obstruction.
The Floral Park Fire Department’s emergency responders had arrived. “She was looking around; she was responding,” by the time the emergency responders had prepared to transport the woman to the hospital.
“I’ve never seen this [an obstruction so big]; I thought it must have been her dentures,” said Naughton. He said he spoke with the woman’s nephew, who was at the restaurant with her, a few weeks after the incident. The woman’s nephew said that his aunt was completely alert, walking, and talking as usual, just hours after being brought to the hospital that afternoon.
Naughton commended the fire department’s response time. He said responders were already at the station that afternoon, loading up to dispatch to Malverne as a standby; a critical care EMT was in the station. Floral Park’s fire department is completely volunteer, staffed by about 120 members.
Doherty has also been a critical care EMT; he believes that their combined CPR experience might have helped the choking victim’s chance of survival.
“This was a happy day, a definite highlight and probably one of the best days I’ve had on patrol in 10 years,” said Doherty. He’s been with the Floral Park Police Department for more than 13 years; and two years with the New York Police Department.
Naughton has been a Floral Park police officer for five years, and is also a chief on the Floral Park Fire Department, where he has served for 17 years. He served with the NYPD for more than eight years.
“We saved her life, and right before the holidays,” said Doherty. “We were on cloud nine.”
Both officers are scheduled to be honored at the next public meeting of the Village of Floral Park Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m.