Quick thinking man saves elderly woman

Cecile Carleton has her very own “lifesaver” at Oak Harbor Assisted Living, which is part of Oak Harbor Retirement Community.

Earlier this month the 98-year-old woman was eating in the dining room when she started choking on a piece of food. Luckily, fellow resident Curtis Hoffman saw her struggling for breath.

Hoffman, a former Navy A-6 pilot, suffers from muscular dystrophy and gets around in a wheelchair. Nevertheless, he didn’t hesitate to pull himself out of the chair, maneuver around the table by leaning on furniture and perform the Heimlich maneuver on Carleton. The food shot out of her mouth and she was saved.

“He saved my life,” Carleton said. “I would call him a hero. He forgot about his own problem and got over there in no time flat.”

Carleton was Hoffman’s first Heimlich patient. He said he was taught the maneuver in the Navy, but never had to use it before. When he saw her choking, his training simply took over. “It’s a good thing to know,” he said.

Terry Jackson, marketing manager for the state-certified center, said everyone was pleasantly surprised by how quickly Hoffman jumped into action. “He did it before the nurses got to the table,” he said. “He had it all taken care of.”

Carleton, a kindly and spirited little woman, will celebrate her 99th birthday March 6. She said this wasn’t the first time she has choked on food, which can be a problem for some elderly folks. The landlady at Big Rock Apartments in Coupeville also saved her life by performing the Heimlich.

While choking can be a very scary experience, Carleton has a light-hearted attitude about the little drama. “Curtis and I kid around a lot,” she said. “I call him my lifesaver.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611.

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