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National Guard members save man from choking at Denver Rescue Mission

A smack to the back saved a man from choking after the Heimlich maneuver didn’t work.
Credit: Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer/Colorado National Guard

DENVER — Two Colorado National Guard servicemembers saved a man from choking earlier this month.

The Guard members, Army Specialist Jo England and Private First Class Harold Taylor, were serving lunch at the Denver Rescue Mission in support of Joint Task Force Shelter Support on April 14.

As people were coming through the lunch line, England and Taylor saw a man beginning to choke, according to a news release from the Colorado National Guard.

England said the man made the universal sign of choking by putting his hands up around his neck.

Taylor rushed over to the man and began performing the Heimlich maneuver, but the piece of food was not dislodging from the man’s airway.

England saw that the Heimlich wasn’t working and came over. She tried a different tactic. She smacked the man in his upper back. 

This method worked after a piece of broccoli came out and the man was able to breathe again.

“I’ve seen healthcare workers at my full-time job do it before, and I’m CPR certified,”  England said. “So I knew where to hit him in order for it to have the most impact and dislodge the food.”

The National Guard said England and Taylor then went back to serving people in the food line.

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England didn’t think the incident was that big at the time, but thought about it later that day.

“When I got back to the hotel I was thinking, he was really in trouble,” she said. “I was proud that I could help him and that I was there at the right time.”

In the Guard, England is a communication specialist and Taylor is a signal support systems specialist, typically performing duties related to radio communications at their home unit in Colorado Springs.

They are part of nearly 300 Colorado National Guard members who are caring for people experiencing homelessness during COVID-19 by serving them food and helping staff maintain the facility.

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