Jason Linnes was socializing and enjoying his meal at the Orcas Chamber of Commerce banquet when he noticed a fellow guest choking.
Ronda Greenawalt took a bite of rare prime rib that slid down her throat before she had a chance to chew it. She tried to cough it up, but couldn’t, and within seconds she began suffocating. When Linnes saw Greenawalt frantically pointing at her throat, he jumped out of his seat to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on her.
“I had a first aid class in high school, and I remembered how to do it,” said Linnes. “I didn’t really think about it. I just went over there and dislodged the food and made sure she was okay and sat back down. The whole thing probably took 45 seconds.”
To do the Heimlich Maneuver properly, one stands behind the person choking and does abdominal thrusts by putting pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm with one’s hands locked together. This compresses the lungs and pushes out the lodged object. Afterwards, Greenawalt felt fine and declined further treatment. Nearly 150 people watched the incident on Oct. 20 at the Rosario Resort Beach House.
“I am so thankful,” said Greenawalt. “He stepped up and he did something. He saved my life. I could feel myself suffocating. His integrity and compassion took him straight into action.”
She encourages others to learn first aid and to act immediately in an emergency situation. Greenawalt has known Linnes for years through his friendship with her children Lisa and Kyle, but she says they now have a “special bond.”
Linnes was recognized for his “quick thinking” by Orcas Fire and Rescue with its Citizen of the Year award on Jan. 7. He says he is honored to have received the award, but doesn’t understand the fuss.
“To me, it was just one of those things that people do to help another person. I hope someone would do the same thing for me,” said Linnes. “And our local volunteer firefighters and EMTs do this all the time – they spend a lot of their own time and money to protect us. To me, they are the heroes. Not me.”