Monticello police officer saves life

You have to wonder when a series of coincidences turns into fate.

Take the case of Monticello patrolman Jason Shumard, who had rarely gone to Buffalo Wild Wings on half-priced wing night until he and wife Shannon traveled to the Champaign restaurant on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Not only was he there, and not only was he seated at the table next to soon-to-be choking victim Bob Ballard of Champaign, but Shumard had just received a refresher course on how to administer the Heimlich maneuver six days earlier.

Not long after both tables had received their food, Ballard, 59, choked on a piece of celery.

“It shut off the oxygen right from that instant,” said Ballard. “I stood up, then my wife stood and said I was turning blue.”

Shumard heeded her call for help, with the 12-year Monticello officer’s training kicking in automatically.

“I was like, ‘spin around buddy,’” said Shumard, who lives in Bement. “I just kind of grabbed him, put my hands in the Heimlich maneuver, squeezed him about four times.”

That cleared Ballard’s airway.

“Thank God he was there,” he said. “He stepped up and saved my life. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

Shumard has been presented with a Life Saving Award by Monticello Police Chief John Carter, and was given a standing ovation when his story was told at the Sept. 25 city council session.

“It’s great to know that it (the Heimlich maneuver) works, and when we need it, it kicks in.”

Since the Sept. 19 incident, Ballard has asked waitresses in other restaurants how they handle choking victims, and was surprised to find most have been told they cannot touch a customer, even in emergencies.

But Carter said the Good Samaritan law protects citizens when they step in for such a cause.

Ballard said he wouldn’t necessarily avoid Buffalo Wild Wings due to the incident, but did make one vow:

“I probably won’t eat another piece of celery in my life,” he said.

Categories (2):News, Social Services

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