The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jose Andres successfully performs Heimlich maneuver on fan at Wizards game

(By Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
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This is a story about a celebrity chef saving a Wizards fan from choking on a sausage during a first-round NBA playoff game.

It started when Wizards fans John D. and Ryan K. splurged for VIP tickets for Game 3 of the Raptors series. The seats came with all-you-can-eat food and drinks, and so during a TV timeout late in the second quarter they headed to the reception area to take advantage.

(I’m omitting their last names merely so that when you Google them, the first result will not involve a sausage, the Heimlich maneuver and a Wizards game.)

John — who was completely sober — was “knocking down a bratwurst” when he began to choke. Of course, we’ve all choked on food, and it usually doesn’t lead to panic, but this was a particularly nasty bit of bratwurst, and a particularly nasty fit of choking. And so John started pounding himself on the back, and began coughing up bits of the meat.

“But the really big part of it that was stuck in there wasn’t coming up,” he said.

He was having some trouble breathing, so a nearby woman began trying to help, to little effect. Which is when a different gentleman — in a Wizards season-ticket jacket — took over.

“He turned me around real fast, gave me one push/thrust of the Heimlich maneuver, and the rest of it came up,” John recalled.

“He applied about one or two pumps and a big chunk of sausage plopped down on the floor,” Ryan wrote in an e-mail. “John was completely fine after what was a tense minute or two.”

The Good Samaritan then reached behind the bar, grabbed a bottle of water and poured a glass for John. But he did so with a certain level of professional flair.

“There was a lot of showmanship involved,” John said. “You could tell he worked in hospitality.”

John was still a little bit rattled, but he shook the man’s hand and headed to the bathroom. And that’s when it hit him.

“Oh my god,” he realized, “that was Jose Andres.”

“Bottom line is Paul Pierce was not the only hero at Verizon Center tonight,” Ryan wrote after the game. “Chef José Andrés saved my friend’s life and was cool as a cucumber while doing so.”

Both men tweeted their thanks at Andres, whose reply was sort of vague, and so they started to doubt whether it was really him. But as luck would have it, I ran into the chef at Verizon Center Sunday evening. He confirmed the entire tale, explaining that he didn’t think the woman knew what she was doing and that he wanted to make sure John was okay. Ryan had called Andres a “hero” in his tweet, which the chef laughingly mentioned to me, saying that he’s no hero and that the real heroes serve in the armed forces.

But anyhow, if you’re ever in Verizon Center and you begin choking on a sausage, look for Jose Andres. He will save your life. And also offer you free tacos.

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