Kailua man nearly chokes to death, his rescuers honored

Stephanie and Kenneth Flores
Stephanie and Kenneth Flores
Vince Conte
Vince Conte

By Teri Okita - email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – All Kenneth Flores remembers is eating a piece of steak – then waking up in an ambulance. It's the 'in-between' that had his wife screaming and in hysterics.

I said, "My husband is choking! My husband is choking!" recalls Stephanie Flores, Kenneth's wife of 41-years.

Two friends who were at the Flores' Kailua home that July evening performed CPR after Flores passed out and started turning blue. Paramedics arrived to the house just four minutes after the 9-1-1 call went out, but Stephanie Flores says it was the longest four minutes of her life. "My husband was dying before my eyes", she says.

Paramedics were able to revive the father of three and grandfather of seven, and although it's been several weeks since the incident, he finally got the chance to thank the EMS crew and the friends who saved him. He says he owes his life to them, "I was just a breath away from it being over."

Paramedics Jeff Zuckernick and Vince Conte, along with dispatcher Kim Miyasato, received the city of Honolulu's annual Lifesaver Award - which pays tribute to outstanding emergency work – from acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell at a special ceremony at Honolulu Hale.

Choking emergencies are scary for both victims and witnesses, and they're more common than you may think. EMS crews and dispatchers on Oahu respond to about a dozen choking calls per week, and they end up transporting about half those victims to the hospital.

And while choking calls may be routine business for the crews, Conte says they still appreciate a pat on the back once in awhile. "It's real rare that we get recognition for specific calls and anything like that, but it's a real honor."

Kenneth Flores' brush with death made his entire family more grateful for life – and of each other. "Life is so short," he says, "and it can go out like that." He gives a word of advice to others: learn CPR and the Heimlich maneuver – because you just never know what may happen.

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