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Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick-thinking busboy saves woman's life with CPR

Patron in her 80s starts choking; Wilson High senior, 18, responds

Reading Eagle
Nathan Cruz is one busboy you better be sure to tip well.

The Wilson High School senior clears tables, greets customers and, oh yeah, saves lives in a pinch.

Halfway into his Saturday night shift at Circle S Ranch House restaurant along Penn Avenue in Spring Township, Cruz heard a hysterical woman in the dining room.

"I was about to bus a table when I heard a woman screaming, 'My mom is choking,' " Cruz, 18, recalled Sunday. "She was hysterical."

The woman's mother was choking on food.

The choking victim, who Cruz said was in her 80s, was short of breath and turning blue when he sprang into action. He prepared to do the Heimlich maneuver when the woman lost consciousness.

Cruz, a junior firefighter with the Western Berks Fire Department and an emergency medical technician trainee, knew to get the woman on her back and start chest compressions.

"It just happened so fast - I just acted," Cruz said. "I was nervous because she was out."

Another patron, who is a nurse, stood by while Cruz administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Within a couple minutes, the lodged food - a piece of roast beef - came out of the woman's mouth.

A few more resuscitative breaths from Cruz, and the woman was awake and alert.

Spring Township police and a supervisor with Western Berks EMS said Cruz might have saved the woman's life.

"It certainly seems like he made a difference," said Bill Baldwin, a Western Berks supervisor who was dispatched to the restaurant.

When a person loses consciousness, Baldwin said, time is precious.

"You have four minutes, and then brain cells start dying," he said.

The woman was taken by ambulance to Reading Hospital and is believed to be doing fine, according to Baldwin.

Her name wasn't available Sunday. Police, medics and restaurant officials weren't sure who she was.

She also was a stranger to Cruz. Still, the teen said his actions were no big deal.

"I'm not looking for a pat on the back," he said. "I was just doing what I was taught."

Cruz is trained in basic life support care and is taking EMT classes.

Oh, and he made sure that the table was cleared off, too.

"Afterwards, it was right back to work," he said. "It was pretty overwhelming. But I pulled it together."

Contact Brett Hambright: 610-371-5022 or