070619-adh-nws-Brian Oare

From left: Brian Oare, Jessica Pankratz and Sarah Steen pose for a photo at Valley Catering in Adair Village on June 27. The image was taken about 30 minutes after Oare nearly choked to death during a Rotary event, but was saved by Steen and Mark Martin, a retired businessman.

Albany realtor Brian Oare almost choked to death during a meeting of the Greater Albany Rotary Club in Adair Village on June 27, but businesspeople gave him the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge pieces of a carrot stuck in his throat.

Oare panicked because people didn’t recognize he was choking for a moment, and he couldn’t communicate to Rotarians to get immediate help.

“This has never happened to me. I knew exactly what was going on. I couldn’t find anybody. … It was scary,” Oare said.

Sarah Steen, business development manager for AmeriTitle’s Albany Office, was at a nearby table at Valley Catering and realized what was occurring.

“Probably seven to eight people were at his table. I think he got up thinking he could clear it, but it was lodged. It was crazy,” she said.

“He stood up and starting coughing and headed my way and stopped. I looked over at him and I said, ‘Brian, are you OK?’ And he made the sign for choking,” she added.

Steen said that she told people to call 911 and tried to give him the Heimlich maneuver.

“She just jumped in right behind me and she gave me three big pulls,” Oare said. “Sarah was the real key here. She actually recognized it.”

Steen said that she’s never been in that situation, but took action without thinking much and had a surge of adrenaline. “I was lifting him off the ground, but I wasn’t strong enough,” she said.

Oare is a rather large man, and Steen is a rather small woman.

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So Steen asked Mike Martin, a retired businessman and Millersburg resident, to help out.

Oare said Martin gave three more pulls to his abdomen, and on the third pull the bits of carrot dislodged.

Martin said that he initially thought that Oare was going to sneeze, but then he made the sign for choking, bringing his hands to his throat.

“It all happened in about 20 seconds,” Martin said. “I was glad I was able to help.”

Martin said he’ll be more ready to react if he’s near another health crisis.

“Sometimes, you might be apprehensive to jump in and you might be waiting for someone else to do it,” Martin added.

Steen said that she hopes her club, and other organizations get more training in the Heimlich maneuver and other first aid training.

“After experiencing this, and only a couple of people really observing and paying attention, I would like to see our club all get a lesson in how to do this. It can happen to anyone at any time, any place. It’s a big eye-opener,” she added.

She said that Oare was extremely emotional in the aftermath of the incident. “I think it put things in perspective how fast life can be over,” Steen said.

Oare, who is well known for wearing Hawaiian shirts every day, said he’s making sure not to talk with his mouth full, just like his mother taught him.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.