Life-saver award for local officer

Monticello Police Officer Forest “Al” Clark was just grabbing a bite to eat last September, but ended up being the right person in the right place at the right time.

And Rick May, who had a piece of steak lodged in his windpipe, benefitted from Clark’s EMT training.

May, 60, was out to eat at the Red Wheel Restaurant with his girlfriend on Sept. 7 when he began choking on a steak. It was serious enough to cause him to nearly pass out.

“It’s a scary thing when you just can’t get a breath,” said May.

Across the restaurant was May and fellow officer (Craig Griswold).

“All of a sudden I heard a chair fall over and someone yelling for help,” said Clark, a former EMT who still teaches CPR and First Aid at the Illinois Police Training Institute. May was flashing the universal choking sign (hands crossed around the neck), and Clark sprung into action, turning him around and providing four abdominal thrusts and freeing the airway.

The seven-year officer of the city was issued a life-saving award last week as a result.

“When I first heard about this, he (Clark) was kind of humble about, and said he was just doing his job,” said Monticello Police Chief Michael Galloway. “Well, I think about it differently,” added the chief, apologizing for the delay in formally issuing the award.

An officer for 14 years at Parkland College, Thomasboro and now Monticello, Clark preferred to talk about the process he used in the Red Wheel that day rather than the heroic effort itself. He emphasized that proper technique is essential when assisting a choking victim.

“You have to be careful. You can go too high” said Clark, which can damage the sternum.

As for May, also of Monticello, the near miss did not make him a vegetarian, but he learned his lesson nonetheless.

“I’m more careful now when I chew my steak,” he said.

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