Choking man's life saved after Northampton medics pour Coca-Cola down his throat in hospital as a last resort

Peter (centre) with Karen, Paul and Gill - the team who saved his life.
Peter (centre) with Karen, Paul and Gill - the team who saved his life.

A Northampton man has thanked the team who saved his life after he choked on a piece of chicken.

When he called the emergency services, he could not talk to tell them where his house was.

But the quick-thinking call handlers were able to figure out his address and dispatch a team as a top priority.

And when they could not clear the blockage, and after they had taken him to hospital, a consultant instructed medics used "the last trick in the book" to save his life - pouring a can of coke in his mouth.

Due to a disability, Peter Ford, 44, from Kingsthorpe Hollow, has trouble swallowing. He can easily choke on his food and normally clears it himself.

Then, one evening in September 2016, he started to choke on a piece of chicken. But this time he found he could not remove it.

Peter presents the team with flowers and champagne for their work.

Peter presents the team with flowers and champagne for their work.

Peter said: "I tried to use the handle of a spoon to get it out myself but it didn't help.

"It all becomes a bit of a blur after that. I don't remember much."

Gill Holmes and Karen Hutchinson, two emergency medical dispatchers, were on duty at a 999 call centre in Lincoln when Peter phoned the emergency services.

Gill said: "I answered the call and knew straight away that someone was choking and in distress. I immediately 'echoed' the call, which means to give it the highest priority.

"He couldn't tell me his address. So I looked up his phone number and found it on our systems. I read out the address and told him to tap the button on his phone if it was right. It was.

"I chose to stay on the line with who I later found out was Peter to reassure him a team was coming.

"Then, suddenly, we were disconnected."

Gill tried to call Peter back but the line was engaged.

Gill said: "For those few minutes, it was horrible. The panic I felt was indescribable."

But then Karen, who was sitting next to Gill, got a call - it was Peter.

Karen said: "I had heard Gill on the phone talking to a patient who was in distress. It was so fortunate he came through to me. It could have so easily gone through to another centre.

"I reassured him help was on the way and had him keep pressing buttons to tell us he was there."

Meanwhile, medic Paul Whiting had been dispatched to Peter's house. He found Peter on the phone and in his wheelchair.

Paul said: "When I got to him his face had turned purple.

"We had no choice but to get him to the hospital and into the resuscitation department. We tried everything, even opening his throat and trying to clear the blockage with forceps. But nothing worked."

With no other options, Paul and his team put their hope in an unorthodox method - and sent someone to get a can of coke.

Paul said: "One of the last tricks in the book is to pour full-fat Coca-Cola on blockage. It can dissolve the food a bit and helps clear it.

"We helped Peter pour it in. And it worked. He coughed the chicken up in minutes."

Peter lost his voice for two weeks after the incident. But when he could talk again, he rang the Paul and his team to say thank you.

Peter said: "All I can say is thank you. In their job, they do not always get appreciated but I want them to know I appreciate them and what they did for me.

"I sent them a little package soon after - a thank you card and a can of coke."

Yesterday (March 3), Peter got to meet and thank his saviours in person at a reunion at Northampton North Ambulance Station, in Harborough Road, where he presented Gill, Karen and Paul with flowers and champagne

Gill said: "Some calls really stick with you after you hang up because you don't know what happens to them. It's so rare for Karen & I to meet one of our callers and to know he was alright.

"It's so lovely to have Peter here today."

Paul said: "Although the 'coke can trick' saved Peter's life this time, that was in a controlled environment.

"Please, do not try and use Coca-Cola if someone is choking and instead call 999."