Doctor leaps to woman's rescue at Calif. dinner

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. A noted California doctor is being called a hero after he performed an emergency, life-saving tracheotomy on a community leader who was choking on a piece of steak.

He used a steak knife and hollowed pen.

The dramatic procedure occurred Monday at The Mark restaurant in downtown Bakersfield, when Kern Community College District board trustee Pauline Larwood began choking on her food at dinner, reports CBS Bakersfield affiliate KBAK-TV.

Some of the nation's top doctors and other area leaders were also in the restaurant, in town for a symposium on valley fever.

The Bakersfield Californian says Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield was seated at a table with Larwood and her husband when she started choking. Grove said her husband and State Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, were also at the table.

Grove said her husband ran to Larwood and tried, unsuccessfully, to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Fortunately for Larwood, there were numerous doctors in the house.

Grove's husband called for a doctor and Dr. Royce Johnson, Kern Medical Center's chief of infectious diseases, attempted the technique as well.

"She had already started turning a real light blue, her fingers and her lips," Grove said.

After the Heimlich failed to open Larwood's airway, Grove called 911 and said she watched in amazement as Larwood was laid back in a chair and Johnson used a steak knife to make an incision in her throat.

"He didn't scream; he just said, 'I need a knife,"' Grove said.

As several physicians gathered around Larwood, someone called for a pen, which Johnson then broke in half. He inserted the hollow cylinder for use as a breathing tube.

Earlier Monday, Johnson had appeared on stage at the symposium with Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

All three were at the restaurant when Larwood began choking. As Johnson tended to Larwood, Frieden monitored her pulse.

"I was sort of looking at her breathing, Royce is blowing into this tracheotomy that he performed and the CDC director (Frieden) is checking her pulse," said Dr. Paul Krogstad, a professor of pediatrics and pharmacology at UCLA. "(Larwood) came around."

The procedure was successful, and Larwood was rushed to a local hospital. Her son said Tuesday that Larwood, a former Kern County Supervisor, was doing fine.


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