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Published: September 17, 2008 05:36 am ShareThisPrintThis
In Middleton, it took a village to save a life
By Mike Stucka
Staff Writer

MIDDLETON - There's no perfect time or place to quit breathing, but Peabody's Sull Slaine got lucky.
Slaine was having dinner at Angelica's restaurant Aug. 23 when he started choking on a piece of steak at 7:38 p.m. - precisely the time a host of Middleton firefighters were returning from a big North Reading house fire. Teams of restaurant employees and police officers also leaped into action.
The incident was highlighted in a ceremony at the selectmen's meeting last week where Slaine thanked the people who helped him - including the Heimlich-performing restaurant owner. Eight firefighters, two police officers and a fire dispatcher took home plaques saying they'd saved Slaine's life.
The restaurant was unusually prepared, said general manager Clint Rhoden. Slaine was actually his last customer before his promotion from waitstaff.
Slaine said he had eaten a popover and spinach pie before the first piece of his prime rib lodged in his windpipe. He gestured to the hostess that he couldn't breathe. That's his last memory before he woke up in a hospital bed.
Slaine dropped to the floor. Angelica's owner Chris Kourkoulis started giving the Heimlich maneuver while waitress Beatriz Rodregues, who is also a nurse, started checking his pulse and his breathing; Rodregues started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Another manager, Michelle Hiltunen, called 911 dispatcher Lily McCormack, who sent everyone she could find. Because of the fire and Angelica's proximity to the fire station - just a couple of blocks down Main Street - plenty of help was nearby.
Some of the first people on the scene were police officer Adam Maccini, who had just been pulling out of the Angelica's parking lot, and an ambulance with fire Lt. Kenneth LeColst with firefighters David Leary Jr., Peter Beauparlant and Jameson Lockhart. Fire Chief Frank Twiss said they rushed upstairs to help restaurant staff.
"They attempted the Heimlich, turned around, and we were there," he said. "... (Firefighters) found the victim on the floor, unresponsive, not breathing. He was cyanotic - blue - on the floor."
Beauparlant is a medical doctor who volunteers as the Fire Department's medical director. Leary, an advanced paramedic, used a laryngoscope and McGill forceps to pluck out the meat as another six firefighters and another police officer arrived. Firefighters put a mask on Slaine, then started squeezing a bag of air to make him breathe. Slaine was told he started breathing in the ambulance, on the way to Beverly Hospital.
Maccini comforted Slaine's dinner companion, then gave her a ride to the hospital behind the ambulance.
Slaine, of course, doesn't remember any of this. He only knows that someone else's misfortune - a homeowner in North Reading - helped keep him alive with so many firefighters nearby.
Doctors were worried he'd been hurt by the lack of oxygen, but his only complaint has been a sore throat from the instruments used to pull out the steak. He struggles to find words to express his gratitude.
"I'll thank them the rest of my life, because they were absolutely marvelous," he said. "They absolutely were just terrific. They showed up in no time at all."
On the phone, Slaine tried to think of all the people who helped him as he lay on a restaurant floor, not breathing. He had plenty of people to thank.
He was glad to appear at the selectmen's meeting to share more praise.
"I'll go any place to thank them," he said.
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