March 19, 2019

By SEAN MALINOWSKI

The afternoon of Dec. 18, the Friday before Christmas, Erica Stoermer was alone in the Support Staff Union office at Conestoga. Busy working, she decided to take an Advil because of a headache. Immediately after swallowing the pill she knew something was wrong.

“It didn’t go down properly, it was stuck in my throat,” Stoermer said. “I swallowed a few times to see if I could push it down my throat and it wasn’t really moving.”

Stoermer than attempted to cough the pill back up. While doing so, the pill was sent up her windpipe. She could no longer breathe in air, only produce short gasps.

“I thought to myself, I just blew all the air out of my lungs. Now my heart is starting to pound because I’m in panic mode, and I’m here alone,” she said.

Stoermer flung open the office door looking for any type of assistance. She immediately noticed a doorway at the end of the narrow, locker-less hall. It was the back door to the cafeteria prep area.
She walked directly to it. Unable to speak, she entered the room with her hands around her neck, the international sign for choking. The cafeteria staff noticed her right away.
Cafeteria staff member Claudia Wicks was the first to respond.

“She was hunched over, and in a panic,” Wicks said. “I asked her if she was OK, and she didn’t answer.”
“I’m not too sure what happened after that,” Stoermer said.

Wicks does have CPR training, but luckily she didn’t have to use it. Moments after appearing at the back door, Stoermer spat up the pill herself.

“We sat her down, calmed her down, rubbed her back, and got her a glass of water” Wicks said. “She was just in such shock.”

Suzanne Wildfong was another staff member who witnessed the scene.

“She was traumatized,” Wildfong said. “Claudia took care of her. Everyone love’s Claudia, she’s the best.”

The following Tuesday Stoermer gave the staff a bouquet of flowers, to thank them for their help.

“What else can you do?” she said. “I’m just glad they were there, and wanted to give them the recognition they deserved.”

Stoermer said she will now dissolve her pill capsules in water.

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