Restaurant Host Saves Customer's Life

14-year-old boy choked on chip and stopped breathing

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A host at an El Fenix restaurant in Fort Worth performed the Heimlich maneuver on a 14-year-old choking on a chip. (Published Friday, Mar 2, 2012)

    The host at a Fort Worth Mexican restaurant is being called a hero for his quick-thinking and fast actions when a 14-year-old customer "started to turn purple" after choking on a chip.

    "I heard a scream, and the whole restaurant went quiet," said Stan Smith, who started his job seating customers at El Fenix on Camp Bowie Boulevard about three months ago.

    Restaurant Host Saves Teen Choking on Chip

    [DFW] Restaurant Host Saves Teen Choking on Chip
    A host at an El Fenix restaurant in Fort Worth performed the Heimlich maneuver on a 14-year-old choking on a chip. (Published Friday, Mar 2, 2012)

    The scream came from Noami Castaneda, whose 14-year-old son, Marco, stopped breathing.

    "I didn't know what to do," she said. "I was frantic. I was just scared."

    Marco Castaneda said he was hungry and put too many chips in his mouth. One got stuck in his throat.

    "I felt like I was going to die at that moment," he said.

    "He started to turn purple," his mother said.

    Smith saw the commotion and raced to help.

    "I just ran all the way across the restaurant and grabbed the kid and started doing the Heimlich maneuver," he said.

    Smith learned the procedure in ROTC training in college.

    "He just put (his hands) under my arm, and he hit me on my chest," Marco said.

    His mother said she was still panicked but relieved.

    "The minute he showed up and started doing that, I thought, 'He knows what he's doing.' And I was just waiting for the result," she said.

    Smith said he was worried he would break Marco's ribs but thought under the circumstances, it was worth the risk.

    "I didn't stop until I was sure the blockage had been coughed up," Smith said.

    Finally, the chip stuck in Marco's throat came out.

    "Immediately, the color came back to his face," Smith said. "He started breathing."

    Noami Castaneda said she has no doubt that the outcome would have been tragic without Smith's actions.

    "I'm just grateful -- grateful he saved my son's life," she said. "I really do believe that he saved him."

    Smith said it took him awhile to process what had happened.

    "To be honest, for like 25 or 30 minutes afterwards, I was shaking," he said.

    Now, two weeks after the incident, Marco's mother said she considers Smith a hero.

    "I just want to thank him with all my heart," she said. "From the deepest bottom of my heart, I want to thank him for what he did for my son."

    Smith remains humble.

    "I'm not a hero,” he said. "I just did the right thing at the right time."

    Marco summed up what he'd like to say in just two words: "Thank you."