By Joe Southern
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls was eating lunch Feb. 22 at the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Rosenberg with a colleague when a man approached him with a frantic look on his face, clutching his throat.
“This gentleman came up to me quietly. He startled me. I didn’t know what he wanted,” Nehls said.
Being a former emergency medical technician, Nehls immediately recognized what was happening.
“I knew when I looked at him that he was choking,” he said.
He told the man that he was going to administer the Heimlich maneuver, got behind him and gave “three or four good thrusts” to his abdomen, discharging the bite of chicken lodged in the man’s throat.
The man’s name is Louis Palacios, and he told television station KTRK that Nehls saved his life.
“I was just thanking God he gave me another chance at life,” he said. “To me, I was just minutes away from not being here right now.”
He explained that he had just taken a bite of his chicken sandwich.
“I just took a swallow and it was a big piece of chicken that went down my throat,” he said.
He tried to conduct the Heimlich maneuver on himself, but to no avail. Then he realize, “ I’m starting to black out.”
That’s when he spotted the sheriff.
“When you see a person in uniform, you’re just kind of like, that’s your go-to guy right there,” he said.
“I’m just glad I was there,” Nehls said.
He called it “divine intervention” that he happened to be in the right place at the right time for Palacios.
Nehls said it was the second time in just a matter of months that he has used the Heimlich maneuver to save a life.
“It was a few months ago up in Green Bay at a Packers game,” he said.
He was in a suite with 15 people when a woman began choking on a bratwurst. He used the lifesaving technique to dislodge the food and help the woman breathe again.
Nehls said that he learned the technique during his training as an EMT in Wisconsin and later in Texas, prior to his career in law enforcement, but he never had to use it until the Packers game and again last week at Chick-fil-A.
“It was a humbling experience for me,” he said.