Doctor at restaurant with colleagues performs lifesaving pocketknife surgery on choking man - East Idaho News
'I'm pleased I could help'

Doctor at restaurant with colleagues performs lifesaving pocketknife surgery on choking man

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IDAHO FALLS – A man celebrating his 94th birthday at a local restaurant with his family last Monday would’ve died had another patron not been there to come to his aid.

Ty Erickson, an OB-GYN at Rosemark Women Care in Idaho Falls, revived the man after he’d lost consciousness due to a piece of food getting stuck in his throat.

Erickson tells it happened around 6 p.m. He and some colleagues were ordering off the menu at Sandpiper when the man at the table next to theirs started “grasping his throat.”

“Immediately we attempted the Heimlich. Three different people tried aggressively to try and dislodge the obstruction,” Erickson says. “Within a couple minutes, it became clear that this was not working. He was beginning to turn blue in the face.”

The man had no pulse so they laid him down on the floor and tried CPR without success. That’s when Erickson knew the man was going to die if he didn’t get oxygen.

He asked if anyone in the restaurant had a pocketknife. A customer brought one to him and Erickson started doing a tracheotomy.

He made an incision in the man’s throat and had one of his colleagues lift up the trachea (the tube that connects the larynx to the lungs).

“We could hear the respiration and he started to pink up, so we recognized we were getting movement of air,” Erickson recalls.

When an ambulance crew arrived, they placed a plastic tube into the trachea to keep his airway open. The ambulance crew stabilized the victim and took him to the hospital.

Erickson hasn’t heard from the man since.

Though the entire ordeal lasted only three or four minutes, Erickson says time is of the essence in a situation like this and he’s grateful he was in the right place at the right time.

“I feel good that I was in a position where I could help another person. Every morning, I get up and pray that I’ll have an opportunity to help somebody. I didn’t think it was going to be something like this,” he says, laughing. “Years of experience … (prepared me) to know exactly what needed to be done and calmly do it.”

Erickson did not provide the victim’s name to protect his privacy, but he gave us the phone number of his grandson, who is an accountant in Idaho Falls.

He did not respond to a request for comment.

Erickson happens to be one of his clients and he read us an email the accountant sent him the day after the incident.

“He’s up and talking today and seems to be doing fine,” the grandson wrote, according to Erickson. “Our family sure appreciates you being there.”

He’s heard from other family members since then who have expressed similar thoughts. One of his colleagues recently informed Erickson the man he saved is a retired judge.

Erickson says it’s hard to say how long it takes to recover from something like this without talking to him. There can be long-term complications if the brain was without oxygen too long. If he’s communicating without any problems, aside from the hole in his throat, Erickson says that’s a good sign.

Recovering from the tracheotomy itself typically takes just a few weeks, he says.

“You put stitches in it and within a week or two — it’s like having throat surgery and it’s not a big deal,” Erickson says.