State Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, brought his medical training to the legislative floor last Friday night when State Rep. Jerome Moon, R-Maryville, was choking on a pack of peanut butter crackers.
“You do things in a hurry when you haven’t eaten all day,” said Moon, referring to the incident that took place around 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 during a special session of the General Assembly. “I learned a big lesson: to slow down.”
While the House legislators had been in a recess, Moon had stopped by the clerk’s office to grab a snack that quickly turned into a moment of terror that he described as a “reverse hiccup.”
On his way back to the House chamber to look for State Rep. Sabi “Doc” Kumar (a surgeon at NorthCrest Medical Center in Springfield), he encountered State Rep. Chris Hurt, R-Halls.
Hurt saw Moon’s difficult breathing and attempted to perform the Heimlich Maneuver himself, but it “didn’t move anything.” Moon started gesturing for additional help when Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, sought out Terry, an anesthesiologist at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital in Murfreesboro.
Terry wrote in an email to the Murfreesboro Post that he had been at his desk speaking with House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, about the remainder of the meeting when he heard his name being called across the chamber.
“I immediately ran across the chamber and met him (Moon) in the corner of the room where I performed the Heimlich,” Terry wrote, referring to a series of abdominal thrusts used to clear a victim’s airway. “Within a few minutes, he was breathing better, able to walk and his color improved.”
Terry wrote that it was a “tense situation.”
Moon, who said he was about 75 feet from Terry at the time, had been showing the universal sign for choking, which involves grasping the throat in distress with one or both hands. He said he initially thought he would be able to cough to clear the blockage before he realized the severity of the situation.
“My biggest fear was, you know, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk, that I would go down, and someone would think I had a heart attack, and I’d suffocate because they were not realizing I couldn’t ventilate,” said Moon, who is “eternally grateful” for the help he received from both men.
Moon said it was his first time receiving the Heimlich, but Terry was able to calm him throughout the ordeal until his windpipe was eventually cleared.
“There is an optimal way to stand, place your hands, and do the abdominal thrust that will improve one’s odds of success,” Terry wrote.