SOMERSET, NJ - Franklin Township Police Officer Patrick Nurthen saved the life of Joan Jackson, 85, who was choking in a local restaurant last month.
Officer Patrick Nurthen, who has been with the Franklin Township Police Department since February 2015, was writing a police report in a parking lot on Davidson Avenue when he received a dispatch call about an elderly woman choking in a restaurant just a couple blocks away.
Rather than waiting for the emergency squad to travel to the scene from the hospital, Nurthen immediately drove there himself.
Joan Jackson’s daughter Claudia Jackson, 49, said that the family was at a celebratory dinner for her nephew’s high school graduation on June 29th when her mother began choking on a piece of shrimp.
“She just had trouble speaking and couldn't say anything,” Claudia Jackson said. “She was pointing to her throat, and that's when I knew I had to call.”
Joan Jackson, a Bloomfield resident who has 11 children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, suffered a severe stroke three years ago, which left her in a wheelchair and completely paralyzed on her left side. Unable to assist her themselves, family members and restaurant employees wheeled Joan Jackson out of the restaurant, and within minutes Nurthen had arrived to help.
“She was blue in the face,” Nurthen recalled. “She couldn't breathe. I was asking her questions, and she was looking up at me but she couldn't respond to anything I said.”
Nurthen quickly took command of the scene. Recognizing that he would be unable to perform the Heimlich maneuver while Joan Jackson was in a wheelchair, he directed family members and restaurant employees to help hold her up straight. From that point, he performed several abdominal thrusts to Joan Jackson until the piece of shrimp came out of her throat.
Claudia Jackson describes the moments afterward as filled with shock, relief, and appreciation as her mother began breathing normally again and regained her ability to speak.
“It was like a big weight was lifted, or like the air was put back in our lungs too,” she said. “It was definitely a group effort but [Officer Nurthen] was the one that saved her from the whole ordeal of going to the hospital.”
Emergency squads arrived shortly afterwards, and soon confirmed that Joan Jackson had no other serious health concerns and would not need to be hospitalized. Joan Jackson left the restaurant with her family, and was well enough to celebrate the Fourth of July with her extended family less than a week later.
“Every time I go on a call like that, it makes me feel good because a lot of times you go on calls that are not so pretty that don't have the greatest outcome,” Nurthen said. “It's just always good to have one that you can look back on and when your career's over and remember that this was something that was really good to save someone's life. Not only it good for me or good for the other person with the department and good for police officers all around the country.”
The Jackson family recently presented a family photo to Nurthen, with the following caption: “This photo were able to take on July 4th, 2018 thanks to you does not even contain our whole family, but everyone of us pictured or not extend a big THANK YOU to you for not giving up and for saving out Mother, Grandmother, Great Grand Mother, Auntie, and Cousin. You Patrolman Nurthen are our HERO.”
Nurthen confirmed that this was the first family photo he had ever received in his career.
“I have received letters in the past for other things, but I never received a photo like this, which was really cool,” Nurthen said. “I'm definitely going to take it home and hang it up somewhere. I'm really proud to have that.”
“We're proud of [Officer Nurthen] and the outcome of this call,” said FTPD liaison lieutenant Philip Rizzo. “He took the training that he's been provided, and made clear, quick, decisive actions that resulted in this outcome. Had he wavered in any way or showed any lack of presence than he did, we may be looking at a very, very different outcome. So I don't know that we as an agency can be much prouder than we are right now.”