Heart and Vascular

Vassar Brothers nurse saves choking woman at restaurant

A nurse stands next to her CPR instructor in the lobby of a cancer center at VBMC


She was in the right place at the right time and, most importantly, had the right training.


So says Lori Nunez, an oncology nurse who jumped into action recently to help a woman choking at a local restaurant.

The registered nurse at Vassar Brothers Medical Center’s Dyson Cancer Center said her Basic Life Support (BLS) trainer was the reason she knew what to do in that high-stress situation. Nuvance Health offers a variety of lifesaving and disaster preparedness courses throughout the year for healthcare professionals and community members.


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Nuvance Health Community Education

The story begins with Micah Bennett, a charismatic BLS instructor with Nuvance Health Community Education, who Nunez describes as a “beautiful human being.” Bennett is Nunez’s favorite BLS instructor, so she makes it a point to sign up for his class when she needs to be recertified.


“I make it a memorable class,” said Bennett, who has been an instructor for more than a decade. “You are investing in yourself, investing in your community, and I want to know that when you leave my class, you are ready to act and be a loyal, committed citizen to all of us.”


Choking on a shrimp

Late in 2022, Nunez was eating at a Dutchess County restaurant when she saw a woman fall out of her chair and hit the floor.


“I ran over to the table and checked the woman for a pulse. There was nothing,” she said.


The woman’s family told Nunez she was choking. Nunez went into immediate action. As the woman turned blue, Nunez tried the Heimlich maneuver and gave her CPR.


“I tried everything Micah taught me,” she said.


She laid the choking woman on her side and struck her between the shoulder blades repeatedly. Finally, one hit on the back loosened the food. A piece of shrimp cocktail came up from the airway into the throat, and Nunez removed it.


As the woman became more alert, the ambulance arrived.


“I credit everything I did to Micah ― every single thing. Without his training, none of it would have been possible,” Nunez said.


The next day, Nunez texted her instructor, thanking him for all he taught her. He beamed with pride.


A happy ending

Nunez, who prefers to praise Bennett for her heroic deed, is content there was a happy ending. Although not a story she shares often, there was one person she told ― her mother ― and was shocked over what she learned.


Nunez’s great grandmother died from choking … on a shrimp.


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Nuvance Health helps train healthcare professions and the community in life-saving techniques, including CPR, BLS, ACLS, mental health first aid, babysitting preparedness and more. Learn more.