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Steakhouse employee saves Long Island woman from choking

Tyler Ostrander was starting his shift as a food runner at Jimmy Hays Steakhouse in Island Park on Saturday, April 8, 2017 when the 20-year-old, who has EMT training, was called upon to perform the Heimlich maneuver on customer Joyce Coletti of Long Beach, who was choking on a piece of steak. April 13, 2017 Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

A Long Beach woman has the quick thinking of a steakhouse employee to thank after he saved her from choking.

Joyce Coletti had stopped into Jimmy Hays Steakhouse in Island Park with a friend Saturday night for a steak. As she chatted with her friend during the meal, she realized something was wrong.

“I was just eating normally and having a conversation,” Coletti, 66, a real estate agent, said. “All of the sudden, I couldn’t breathe and I felt something in my throat.”

Fortunately for Coletti, a food runner with EMT training was working that night and stepped in to save her. Tyler Ostrander, 20, of Island Park, performed the Heimlich maneuver and dislodged the steak, allowing Coletti to breathe again.

Coletti credits Ostrander with saving her life and wants to recognize him for his good deed.

“I didn’t know how to thank him,” she said.

Ostrander, who has worked for more than two years at the restaurant, was in the kitchen preparing for the dinner rush at about 5:30 p.m. when he heard a commotion in the dining room.

“One of the waiters came in screaming my name; I thought I was in trouble,” Ostrander said.

They needed Ostrander’s help, said restaurant manager Terry Wilson. Ostrander had completed an EMT course in January and quickly became the restaurant’s go-to person for medical emergencies, Wilson said.

Coletti said she “began to see stars,” and a nurse sitting near her table recognized what was happening and tried to perform the Heimlich. But the woman wasn’t quite strong enough to help, Wilson said.

“She was trying and she failed,” he said. “Tyler came in — he, he’s much stronger.”

Ostrander tried a few times until, after his fourth attempt, Coletti could breathe again, she said.

Ostrander said he’s used to stepping in when needed. He previously used his training to help another choking customer and a man who had too much to drink. He hopes to join the FDNY.

“It kind of just becomes tunnel vision for me when something like that happens,” he said. “Someone was in need of help and I just acted on it.”

As for Coletti, the experience has shaken her up and left her with a bruised rib. She’s grateful to be alive, and has taken it easy since the incident, she said.

“I’ve taken off a couple days of work. I can’t do much, but I’d rather that than be dead,” she said. “It’s the most frightening experience of my life.”


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