Surf club staff act quickly to save choking woman

A COUPLE of Coolum locals stepped up and rescued a tourist from a near-death experience at Coolum Beach, but it didn't happen in the surf - it happened in the surf club.

It was a busy night last week and the bars and restaurants were in full swing.

Restaurant supervisor Melissa Burford said an older man rushed up to her looking very distressed and said his wife was choking and needed help.

"I took one look and ran to call an ambulance. While I dialled triple zero I grabbed Keith (the manager) and led him to where she was," Melissa said.

Coolum Surf Club staff members Melissa Burford and Keith Jackson acted quickly to save a woman who nearly choked to death on a her meal.
Coolum Surf Club staff members Melissa Burford and Keith Jackson acted quickly to save a woman who nearly choked to death on a her meal. Erica Henderson

Bar and restaurant manager Keith Jackson said the situation was confronting.

The woman was choking and her husband kept saying "don't let her die''.

"The woman had somehow made her way out of public view in to the bathroom with her husband," he said.

"She was caved over, very distressed and struggling to breathe."

"I asked what she had eaten and from the conversation with her husband it became clear that there was a lump of meat stuck in her throat.

"I'm no lifesaver but I went into lifesaver mode because I had some idea of what to do because of the training we have here at the club.

"I calmed her down, and asked her to cough but she wasn't getting any oxygen in. It was a very serious situation."

Would you know what to do to save someone choking on food?

This poll ended on 19 September 2015.

Current Results

Yes I've been trained and would act quickly to help them out


No so hopefully someone else or a paramedic would arrive in time


This is something I wish I knew how to do


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Things got pretty graphic, so let's just say Keith diligently and calmly followed the steps he learned in training and saved the woman's life.

Both Keith and Melissa acted quickly in an emergency and it was their calm, quick thinking and teamwork that saved a life.

The very grateful New Zealanders returned to the club the following day to personally thank the staff and present them with a card and buy them lunch.

Melissa said the couple were in Coolum enjoying a special end of holiday celebration meal.

"When she had a chat with us she was pretty quiet and she said she thought she was going to die. She was pretty emotional about the whole situation," Melissa said

Ironically Keith and his staff had been to a refresher first aid training course the previous week.

A modest Keith said "you do whatever you can in these situations''.

"I'm thinking now thank god for that training or this could have all ended very differently - in all seriousness the situation was pretty shocking and confronting."


St John Ambulance has the following advice to help someone who is choking:

- ask them to cough up the obstruction.

If coughing fails to clear the airway, call 000

Then deliver five back blows:

- Bend patient forward.

- Give up to five sharp blows to the middle of the back, checking after each blow to check if airway has been cleared.

- If the back blows do not clear the blockage, try chest thrusts.

Give five chest thrusts:

- Place one hand in middle of the back.

- Place other hand in the middle of the chest and give five sharp chest thrusts, checking after each thrust to check if airway has been cleared.

If chest thrusts do not work, alternate between five back blows and five chest thrusts until medical help arrives.


• Call 000 if coughing does not remove the blockage, or if patient is an infant. 

• If patient becomes unconscious call 000 for an ambulance, remove visible obstruction from mouth and commence CPR.

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