Hawke's Bay midwife cuts open choking boyfriend's throat, saves his life

A Hawke's Bay woman saved her choking boyfriend's life when she used a Stanley knife to cut open his airway.

Midwife Sarah Glass, 45, was at a barbeque last month at Waimarama Beach with partner Isak Bester, 50, when a piece of steak became lodged in his throat.

"At minute one we had him on the floor doing CPR. By minute two we were doing mouth-to-mouth," she told RadioLIVE's Mark Sainsbury on Friday.

"He was completely purple, but we were getting air in and it looked like we might be able to keep him going.

"After about eight minutes we were no longer getting air into him. The piece of steak had moved, so he was now turning a very nasty shade of purple and he was dying in front of us."

With the hospital 30 minutes away and no other options left, Ms Glass asked if anyone had a sharp knife, having read up on tracheotomy in her early 20s. The procedure involves making an incision in the windpipe to relieve obstruction to breathing.

Ms Glass didn't hesitate.

"I asked, 'Has anybody got a sharp knife?' And I cut a tracheotomy on my partner to basically open his airway.

"We used our home-birth kit to use a syringe to keep that airway open, where we pulled the plunger out of the syringe.

"We then grabbed our home birth oxygen tanks and used oxygen tubing and turned it on and put that down his trachea.

"He came back to colour."

Twenty minutes after the ordeal began, a paramedic arrived. Ten minutes after that, a helicopter picked Mr Bester up.

Ms Glass says there's "absolutely no way" he would have survived without the tracheotomy, and they're lucky three midwives, trained in first-aid, were at hand.

"Everybody worked like a well-oiled machine and everything happened at the right time and when it needed to happen."

There were still fears the lack of oxygen would leave him brain damaged and it was touch and go for a few hours.

"My partner was lying in a puddle of blood, I had blood all up my arms. We'd just had a very scary experience and I was thinking, what next?"

Thankfully, Mr Bester is expected to make a full recovery.