High school student helps save choking man

Teen credits Timber Creek health class

AVALON PARK, Fla. – Timber Creek High School sophomore Maria Mencos said she had just started her shift at A Aki Sushi Restaurant in Avalon Park when she heard a man choking and ran by his side to help.

Mencos, 16, said she would have never known she would be saving a man's life.

"In that moment I really knew what to do," she said.

Mencos said she was organizing menus when she heard someone screaming at a table nearby.

"I heard someone yelling, like, 'Dad, are you OK, dad?' and I was like, 'What's going on?'" she said.

Mencos told News 6 that she saw the man's face and knew something was wrong.

"He was like in shock and he had water in his nose and he was crying and trying to drink water, and I was like, 'OK, he's choking,'" Mencos said.

The teen said she has been taking a first aid class in school since last year and that night at work she put her knowledge to the ultimate test.

"I hit him really hard to get that out. I did it 10 times and it just came out. He threw up and I was like, 'Woah, I did it,'" she said. "All that time studying for that exam, all that practice. At the end, it's really worth it."

Mencos' health teacher, Sam Mizener, said he's been teaching the class for more than 10 years and has never had a student apply a first aid maneuver in real life.

"I was super proud of her and excited for her. It's exciting to have a student come back and tell me that they actually saved somebody," Mizener said.

He said if the move is done correctly, the person will be able to cough up the object and breathe immediately.

"What it does is it kind of jolts the person where they cough the object up. I think it's an awesome opportunity for students to take this course because you never know when an emergency like this is going to happen," Mizener said.

Mencos said the man and his family thanked her repeatedly. She added that knowing that skill has changed her life.

"He was like, 'Thank you.' He sat down and I was like, 'You want more water?' and he was like, 'Thank you. Yes, please.' I feel happy, you know, proud that I could help him," Mencos said

After she graduates from Timber Creek High School, Mencos plans to study medicine at the University of Central Florida.