By Suzanne Pender
A KILLESHIN woman has been hailed a hero for her fearless actions in saving the life of her friend who was left choking to death when an enjoyable night out turned into a medical emergency.
Kelly Brennan bravely stepped up to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on the choking woman in her 60s, who was desperately unable to breathe when a piece of chicken became lodged in her airways.
“I’d like to thank Kelly from the bottom of my heart … only for her I wouldn’t be here today,” said the woman.
Kelly, her partner Richard Timmons and another local couple were holidaying in Alicante, Spain last week and were enjoying a meal in the popular Paddy’s Point Bar and Restaurant in La Zenia when the incident occurred.
“Adrenaline kicks in and you know what you have to do. You don’t really think about it, you just do what you have to do,” a modest Kelly told ***The Nationalist***.
“She keeps calling me her guardian angel, she’s very grateful,” adds Kelly.
Kelly and Richard are founding members of Killeshin First Responders (CFR) and there’s no doubt that her training and quick actions saved the woman’s life.
“We were enjoying our meal with another couple and then I noticed the lady getting up from the table and tapping her chest and then walking away without saying anything, which wouldn’t be like her,” explained Kelly.
“Richard said it to me, too, and asked if she was okay. I said I wasn’t sure, so I followed her out to the ladies, where she’d gone into a cubicle and locked the door,” she adds.
Thankfully, when Kelly called out to the woman, she was able to unlock the door. “She couldn’t talk and she couldn’t breathe, but she was giving the sign that she was choking,” said Kelly.
Kelly administered five strong blows to the woman’s back, but the distressed woman was still desperately choking. Kelly followed it up with another five blows to the back.
“I kept apologising to her because they were very strong, hard blows.”
Unfortunately, the blows didn’t work, so a very calm Kelly then performed the Heimlich manoeuvre, a series of abdominal thrusts aimed at removing a stuck object. Alarmingly, nothing happened.
Kelly shouted for help, and staff from Paddy’s Point along with Richard and the woman’s husband rushed to their aid.
“At this stage she was very panicked and couldn’t get any air in,” recalls Kelly.
A determined Kelly performed the Heimlich manoeuvre again and, to the relief of everyone, the piece of food dislodged.
“She was instantly relieved and breathing normally. We all sat down … she was very shook by it all.”
It was only the following day that the enormity of what happened hit everyone.
“She was very sore the next day and it dawned on everyone what had happened … it could have been a disaster,” said Kelly.
In a social media post, the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote: ‘We were out last night for a meal when I started to choke. I couldn’t get my breath or talk. Kelly did the Heimlich manoeuvre and released the obstruction. Only for her I wouldn’t be here today. Also big thanks to the Paddy’s Point staff for their quick actions. I’m one lucky lady.’
Kelly firmly believes that CPR and techniques to prevent choking should be taught to everyone. “You might never need them, but it’s a skill that everyone should have,” she said.
Killeshin CFR went live answering emergency calls alongside the National Ambulance Service in September 2021 and over the past year has responded to more than 80 calls in the communities it covers.
“I’ve dealt with cardiac arrests in the past, but this was my first chocking incident. Adrenaline gets you through, and the training you have,” said Kelly.
Since forming Killeshin CFR, Kelly and Richard have begun working as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with Medicall Ambulance Service in Callan, Co Kilkenny.