Retired doctor fills in as busboy to help waitress daughter, saves choking woman’s life

WINNETKA, Ill. — It was a very lucky St. Patrick’s Day for a woman in need of a life-saving assist at a an Illinois restaurant over the weekend.

A last-minute staffing issue left the Trifecta Grill in need of a busboy to fill in during the busy holiday weekend. Waitress Alina Benge had an idea: She would call her dad, who had recently retired.

“Just because he’s had the time on his hands. He’s been around the house, and you know, not doing a whole lot,” Benge said.

Her dad is Dr. Bill Benge, a retired Harvard-trained cardiologist, who jokes he traded his white coat for a white apron.

“I said – this is not funny – but what happens if there’s some medical event, and he just happens to be here on this night, and we were all kind of laughing in jest about it,” bartender Nicole Papalia said.

But just after he arrived on Saturday, the punchline became a life-line when an elderly customer began choking on her meal.

“He wasn’t here for more than five minutes with his apron on and a lady had stopped breathing from choking,” restaurant owner Patrick O'Neil said.

So instead of clearing tables, Dr. Benge stepped in to clear a blocked air passage.

“Did the Heimlich maneuver, which is abdominal thrusts, where you bring your fists up abruptly and we did that two or three times and she was able to clear the object,” Dr. Benge said.

Sometimes, finding something unexpected on the menu is the best part of going out to eat. For everyone at the Trifecta Grill, they're thankful the customer found something unexpected -  a happy surprise that wasn’t what she asked for, but it was just what the doctor ordered.

“I kind of go back in my mind and say, what if he wasn’t here? How would that have turned out? What would the outcome be? I’m just so lucky my dad was here that night,” Alina Benge said.

The woman who was rescued was a bit embarrassed about the whole thing, and didn’t want to be interviewed.

But Dr. Benge said it’s a good reminder that we should all take a moment to learn the Heimlich maneuver, because you don’t have to be a doctor to save someone’s life.

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