Nursing student uses Heimlich maneuver to save Olive Garden worker’s life

The quick action of Gaston College Nursing student Madeline Hare and instructor Joyce Floyd saved the life of a restaurant employee.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — What started out as a fun outing for Gaston College LPN students and their teacher turned into an actual life-or-death experience.

According to the college, seven students and their clinical nursing instructor Joyce Floyd, BSN/RN, went to the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant in Gastonia last Thursday to celebrate the completion of their two-month clinical rotation at the Stanley Total Living Center.

The group had been at the restaurant for about 45 minutes when a restaurant employee ran to their table and asked for help. Another employee was in the kitchen choking on food and was unable to breathe.

Floyd, who had been pointed out as a nurse by a someone who knew her, rushed to the kitchen and started doing the Heimlich maneuver to get the food out of the worker’s throat. After three or four thrusts the employee was still choking, so Floyd called for nursing student Madeline Hare to come to the kitchen.

The college said that Hare is much taller than Floyd and, given the height of the employee, Floyd felt she could be more effective. Under Floyd’s guidance, Hare performed the Heimlich maneuver and on the fifth forceful thrust the food flew out of the man’s mouth.

Prior to Thursday, Hare had never performed the Heimlich maneuver and never imagined that she would be called upon to do it. When Floyd summoned her help, she said she did not hesitate and followed Floyd’s directions.

“During the procedure the adrenaline took over and I don’t even remember thinking -- I was just doing,” Hare said. “After the procedure, I thought, ‘Did that just happen? My family will never believe this!’ And then my hands were shaking and I was so overwhelmed by what had just happened. I could not believe it was real.”

Hare said that helping people has been a goal for years. When she was in high school, her sister had a surgery that went wrong and she almost lost her life. Hare helped her during her recovery and she realized how much she loved taking care of people.

“Ever since then,” Hare said, “I have had a dream of becoming a nurse.”

Hare has worked for just over a year at CaroMont Regional Medical Center as a CNA in the medical/surgical/oncology unit. After passing her NCLEX-PN exam, she will be an LPN in the same unit. Her career goal is to work in labor and delivery or women’s health.

“We are so proud that the quick action of our people saved someone’s life,” said Dr. Allison Abernathy, Dean of Health and Human Services. “It demonstrates the professionalism, skill, and dedication to helping people that our faculty and students share. I’m very happy that Madeline, Joyce, and the other students were in the right place at the right time.”

After the incident, the Olive Garden manager, employees, and the choking victim expressed their gratitude to Hare, Floyd, and the other students.

As for Hare, this lunch at Olive Garden was “an experience [she] will never forget!”

(WATCH: Man reunites with good Samaritan who saved his life 35 years after near drowning)