Doc saves life with emergency tracheotomy in busy restaurant

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) A banquet room at The Mark Restaurant was filled with guests having dinner when patrons and workers alike noticed someone in distress.

"Next thing you know, my server J.R. hears, 'She's choking! She's choking!'" described Bo Fernandez, restaurant general manager and executive chef.

Former Kern County Supervisor Pauline Larwood, along with her husband Tom, had joined others Monday at the downtown spot for dinner after having attended a symposium on valley fever.

Larwood began choking on a piece of steak.

"Somebody tried to give her the Heimlich maneuver, and they weren't big enough," said Fernandez.

Restaurant supervisor J.R. Gonzalez also tried to help, but to no avail.

Fortunately for Larwood, there were numerous doctors in the house because of the Valley Fever Symposium. Among the diners was Dr. Royce Johnson, chief of infectious diseases at Kern Medical Center.

Johnson sprang into action to perform an emergency tracheotomy with makeshift tools he had at his disposal.

"The doctor said, 'Let's put her on the ground,'" Fernandez described, "and he made an incision with a knife." Fernandez motioned how the doctor inserted the knife to Larwood's throat area.

Johnson then inserted the hollow cylinder of a pen to act as a breathing tube, according to Fernandez.

"It took a little bit, but finally their gasp comes," he said.

Also helping out during the procedure were Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Paul Krogstad, who were participants at the Valley Fever Symposium, according to The Bakersfield Californian.

Larwood is recovering at a local hospital.