Heimlich Hero

01/01/2024
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    This image from video shows concrete truck driver Jeff Hanus helping a choking woman on November 4, 2023, in Bolingbrook, Illinois. (Ozinga via AP)
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    Jeff Hanus says he acted on instinct when he saw the woman in distress. (ABC7 Chicago via AP)
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    People practice the Heimlich Maneuver. The man on the right is performing the universal sign of choking by placing both hands on his throat. ( 최광모/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)
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When Jeff Hanus went into work on November 4, he probably wasn’t expecting to save a life.

But the truck driver was working at a construction site when a woman drove up. His vehicle was parked near Interstate 55 in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, Illinois. She got out of her car, leaving two children inside, and approached Hanus. When he noticed her, he jumped out of his truck.

“She raises her hands up towards her throat, and that’s the international sign for choking. So I asked, ‘Are you choking?’ and she clearly said yes,” Hanus says.

He performed the Heimlich maneuver (also called abdominal thrusts) on the woman. That dislodged whatever was choking her.

“Instinct took over. I try to live my life both from my heart and my gut, and that’s what was in control,” Hanus says.

Once her throat was cleared, the woman returned to her vehicle. Hanus noticed that two toddlers were in the back seat.

He says the woman didn’t speak with him immediately after he helped her. But she did indicate that she was OK.

“It seemed she was pretty shaken up. So I don’t think she was in the mood for a conversation,” he explains.

“Then it hit me that if this . . . went wrong, it could have [gone] really, really wrong,” Hanus told WLS-TV. “What if she passed out and the vehicle flipped?”

Hanus says his interaction with the woman was a reminder of a good friend who died from choking a few years ago. He’s grateful the woman found him in a sea of traffic.

Hanus was lauded as a hero that day. But there’s evidence that helping others is a way of life for him. Ozinga, the company that employs Hanus, recognized him in 2018 for volunteering with the Disabled Patriot Fund. The Illinois-based organization provides assistance to U.S. veterans. Clear-thinking Hanus is a retired Army sergeant himself.

“The reason I give now is because I have found joy in giving,” an Ozinga blog post quotes Hanus as saying. “Joy is an emotion that is higher than love, and while some have called me generous, I say that is open to debate.”

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” — Acts 20:35

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