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College student puts EMT training into action, saves woman

WHITTIER — A Rio Hondo College emergency medical technician (EMT) student put his classroom training into practice last month when he stepped in to help a choking woman at Downey restaurant.

Mark King Jr., 23, of Lynwood, was celebrating a friend’s birthday at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse on Sept. 16 when some of the guests told him a woman at the party was in distress, possibly having trouble breathing.

“They know I’m in school for EMT, that I’m CPR-certified and I know what to do,” King said. “I rushed over and asked the woman if she was choking or if she just couldn’t breathe. She pointed at her throat and gave the universal sign that she was choking. She was gasping for air.”

King sprang into action.

“I got into position to give the Heimlich maneuver, the procedure you do to help someone who is choking,” he said. “I gave three to five abdominal thrusts, and the food that was lodged in her airway came out.”

The student’s poise and presence of mind were praised by Rio Hondo College leaders.

“Mark embodies the essence of the community service mindset we try to foster at Rio Hondo College,” college President Teresa Dreyfuss said. “I’m proud that our training played a pivotal role in helping him save this woman. He is a true hero.”

King, who works at Disneyland, said he had been considering the EMT program for a while.

“I like helping people and I thought this would be a good field to go into,” he said. “I have a couple of friends in the field and I have an older cousin who is [a licensed vocational nuirse],” King said.

To join the EMT program, King first needed to take a basic fire tech course over the summer. Then, in August, he began the eight-week program, which meets from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. four days a week. He picked Rio Hondo College because the program has a good reputation while remaining affordable.

King said his experience at the restaurant solidified his drive to become an EMT.

“It reassured me that I’m able to act under pressure, to execute the procedures in a safe and effective manner, to help someone,” he said. “It also made me feel great.”

Rio Hondo College Board of Trustees President Mary Ann Pacheco said the college’s EMT program is one of several well-regarded public service programs offered at the college.