On the afternoon of Friday, February 11, PEC member Nita Leinneweber was enjoying a lunch at restaurant in Kingsland with her husband and mother. The family, from Wimberley, had been running errands in Sunrise Beach and decided to stop at the restaurant for a quick bite to eat. Shortly after sitting down, Leinneweber began choking on a piece of food and ran to the restroom. Her husband and mother quickly followed. What transpired next was a combination of people and circumstance that she credits her life for today.
As Leinneweber struggled to catch her breath, her husband desperately looked for help. Marble Falls Police Chief Glenn Hanson happened to be eating a few tables away. When Leinneweber’s husband alerted Hanson about the situation, he immediately sprang into action, performing the Heimlich maneuver to try and clear her airway. Meanwhile, PEC Lineworker John Hert was also finishing lunch at the restaurant.
“We were just walking out, in fact, all of the other guys in my crew were outside,” Hert said. “I went to refill my tea, and that’s when I heard the commotion over by the restroom.”
Having worked as a firefighter for more than 16 years, Hert is still a certified, advanced EMT and is trained to assist in critical moments.
“When John came in, I was already well underway and tiring out,” Chief Hanson said. “Then, he told me he was an EMT, and I said ‘Okay, take over.’”
After several more attempts, Hert was able to dislodge the food from Leinneweber’s airway.
“That’s when I could really, finally catch my breath,” Leinneweber said. “I was shocked and don’t remember much about what happened, but afterwards I knew I had to find my heroes.”
Later that day when Leinneweber returned home, she emailed PEC to find and recognize the lineworker who helped save her life. A few weeks later, PEC helped facilitate a reunion with Hert, Chief Hanson, Leinneweber, and her family.
Chief Hanson said, “To me, it’s awesome and it speaks volumes to the kind of community we have here. Not only that John stepped in, but the fact that Nita sought us out afterwards. To have an opportunity to get together like this and just hug on each other, that’s better than a paycheck.”
Through the hugs, tears, and heartfelt thank-you’s, Leinneweber expressed her gratitude and presented each of the men with a personalized plaque and a red rose. She also explained how a medical condition had previously led to surgeries that created scar tissue in her throat and put her at an increased risk of choking.
“The good Lord has watched over me and having you both there that day was just amazing,” Leinneweber said to Hert and Hanson. “Everyone should have that kind of training.”
John admits he was reminded just how important his training can be. In all his time as a firefighter, he never once performed the Heimlich maneuver, but when he finally did, the training made all the difference.
“My certification was actually going to be up and I kind of thought, ‘I’m probably not going to do that anymore.’ But then this happened, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to let that one go,’” Hert explained. “I’m very quickly getting all my continuing education hours together so that I can recertify.”
Leinneweber, who has two sons and seven grandchildren is forever grateful, along with her family.
“I just have no way of saying thank you enough,” she said. “God put them both there for a reason. I am definitely a believer, and I just appreciate it more than ever.”
And as she made sure to point out, she said, “Not all superheroes wear capes.” In this case, hard hats and badges worked just as well.