PRCC worker hailed as hero after performing Heimlich Maneuver on fellow employee

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 PRCC Employees Doug Touchstone and Michael Yarborough stand in front of fireplace

Michael Yarbrough, a workforce project manager at Pearl River Community College, is being hailed as a hero by his fellow workers at the Woodall Advanced Technology Center after he performed the Heimlich Maneuver on a fellow worker.

The worker, custodian and handyman Doug Touchstone, was eating his lunch in the Woodall Center on April 12 when he began choking.

“I was eating a turkey sandwich, in a hurry,” said the 48-year-old Touchstone. “I took a large bite and started choking. I was holding my chest and trying to breathe.”

He was walking down the hallway and decided to enter the auditorium, thinking the downward slope toward the stage might help. 

Yarbrough was in the auditorium checking some equipment when he saw Touchstone struggling and motioning for help.

“I saw him come in the door and he was sort of panicking, but I wasn’t sure what was going on,” said Yarbrough. “When he spotted me, he turned around like he knew what I needed to do. I put my arms around him, put my fists in his stomach and then squeezed and backed up at the same time.”

On the third time, the food dislodged in his throat popped out on the floor. The incident was captured on surveillance video at the Woodall Center.

“He saved my life,” said Touchstone, who has had two previous incidents of choking on food. “This one was the worst.”

Yarbrough credits his recent attendance monitoring a first-aid CPR class PRCC conducted for a local company as a key for knowing how to respond. The Heimlich Maneuver, the world’s most famous technique for treating a choking victim, was one of the topics. 

“In the moment, you don’t really think of the consequences,” said Yarbrough. “I am just thankful I was there. I hate to think what would have happened if I had not been there.”

Marissa Brandon, who teaches first-aid and CPR as part of her curriculum at PRCC, said it’s important to teach the Heimlich Maneuver in these classes. “This is one of those skills that you never know when it will be helpful,” she said. “I am glad to have been able to contribute to Michael’s efforts to help a fellow employee.”       

Meanwhile, Touchstone was back at work at the Woodall Center the next day. His lunch menu: soup.

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