Valdosta mayor saves choking victim's life -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta mayor saves choking victim's life

October 30, 2006

Valdosta - Harley Kemp and his wife, Carol, came down with the flu a few weeks ago.

The illness ravaged Harley's body and immune system.  "It caused me to have an infection in my esophagus, caused my esophagus to swell and collapse," he says.

He was put on an antibiotic to help open his throat but he's still had problems eating.  But when he stopped at Waffle House in Valdosta on his way home from work Thursday night for his favorite pork chop dinner, he thought he was fine. 

"I took another bite, then another, then another and I'm sitting here chewing up, I thought I was fine then I started choking and couldn't get it down, couldn't get it back up."

Harley says he was on his last breath as the Waffle House staff dialed 911, when a customer sitting behind him took action.  "Immediately he just grabbed me right up and beat me in the back, started to pull me up to do the Heimlich maneuver. During this time I coughed it up."

That customer who saved Harley's life just happened to be John Fretti, Mayor of Valdosta.  "Then he told me who he was. And at that moment, I wouldn't care if he was a homeless person because what he did, he saved my life. My family thanks him and I really thank him."

Today, Harley's just happy to be alive and now dreaming of the day he'll get to eat those pork chops. "I'll eat the whole hog."

Harley Kemp was lucky someone was at hand who was trained to do the Heimlich maneuver.

Firefighters say similar incidents happen countless times throughout the city and simple training could help save more lives.

At the Valdosta Fire Department, fire fighters offer training to anyone who is willing to learn.  They say with choking, a matter of minutes could mean the difference between life and death.

And training to do this maneuver could help save more lives.  "I recommend that everybody gets trained, at least the basic level of this because it's very important, especially for rapid response," says Fire Fighter Justin Ply.

The American Red Cross and most fire departments offer First Aid and CPR training.


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