Right place, right time

Saving lives on and off the clock


It can be thought of as a fortunate accident or something that happens by chance.

And it just so happened that a training session and area meetings brought UF Health ShandsCair team members together for a “chance” dinner on March 14.

Derek and Ed
Left to right: Derek Hunt and Ed Crews

Derek Hunt, BS, EMT-P, FPC, a clinical educator with UF Health ShandsCair, and Ed Crews, MSN, RN, EMT-P, UF Health ShandsCair program director, are rarely in the same place at the same time, so they took advantage of this serendipitous occasion to have dinner with team members from ShandsCair 6 in Milton. Hunt was actually intending on leaving Milton that day, but decided to extend his stay for an additional night.

As Hunt and Crews were waiting for two other ShandsCair team members to arrive at the restaurant, an elderly man using a mobility device began scooting toward their table in distress.

After the man signaled that he was choking, Hunt immediately began administering the Heimlich maneuver and successfully dislodged the piece of steak the man was choking on.

“It was just a reaction,” Hunt said. “I just did something that anyone else would have done in that situation.”

Fortunately, the prompt response prevented the man from requiring hospitalization.

West Chief Flight Nurse Andy Donaldson, BSN, RN, EMT-P — who was at dinner that evening — said small acts like these can sometimes make the biggest difference in medical emergencies.

“Had they not been there, it could have gone differently,” he added.

As part of their training, all ShandsCair crews learn the Heimlich maneuver along with various other first aid techniques.

“It’s funny … for as long as I’ve been an in-flight paramedic, and all the things I’ve done with my team, I don’t recall ever having to perform the Heimlich maneuver on an actual person,” said Hunt, who’s been with ShandsCair since 2009. “I’ve been teaching it for years, but in my professional experience, by the time I reach a person who is choking, they’ve either recovered or lost consciousness.”

After the incident, the man’s relative expressed gratitude to Hunt for his assistance, as did several other diners who had come to their table.

“I’m glad that we were there,” Hunt said. “I’m glad that it had a good outcome, and hopefully he’s still doing great.”