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Woman is a real livesaver

February 27, 2002|By STACEY DANZUSO

Chambersburg, Pa. - Judy Culbertson doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.

With more than 20 years of first-aid training, the Chambersburg resident said she went on autopilot when she performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking customer at Hoss's Steak and Sea House in December.

"I guess that is what training is supposed to do - make it an automatic reflex," Culbertson said. "It didn't seem like that big a deal."

The American Heart Association, however, felt Culbertson should be honored for her efforts and presented her with a Heartsaver award Tuesday.

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"It is a big deal," said Sharon Strike, a spokeswoman for the heart association. "How many people would do that? Not everyone has the courage to step forward."

Culbertson is the first Franklin County resident to receive the award, Strike said.

A waitress and dining room supervisor at Hoss's, at 1740 Lincoln Way East in Chambersburg, Culbertson said she was serving other customers when her manager started yelling for her. She saw another customer, Esther Webster, choking on a piece of steak.

"I was choking very bad. I didn't realize what was happening," Webster said.

Culbertson said she rushed over to the woman and performed the Heimlich maneuver, quickly dislodging the meat.

"She couldn't have been choking for very long, but she was in distress," she said.

Culbertson, 56, said she began her first-aid training as an emergency medical technician in Mercersburg, Pa., more than 20 years ago. No longer going on ambulance calls, Culbertson has had to keep up her training to work at Hoss's for the last 16 years.

The restaurant chain requires its supervisors to be trained in first aid, and Culbertson teaches about three certification courses a year for the managers.

Until Dec. 5, Culbertson said, she never had to perform the Heimlich maneuver in an emergency situation.

"It all went quickly. I know (Webster) was scared," she said.

Culbertson said she didn't really think about what was going on until afterward.

"When I stop and think about it, she was choking, but she was still able to walk out of the restaurant," she said.

Each year, choking causes 3,000 deaths in the United States. It can lead to unresponsiveness and eventually cardiac arrest, according to the American Heart Association.

The organization initiated the Heartsaver Award to recognize outstanding individuals who have actively attempted to save someone's life from choking or from a heart attack or cardiac arrest, regardless of the outcome.

Webster, a resident of the Menno Village retirement community in Chambersburg, nominated Culbertson for the award.

Both were there Tuesday as Nan Hancock, chairman of the American Heart Association's' Operation Heart Beat program, and state Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Franklin, presented Culbertson with a plaque.

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