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Deputy saves woman choking on steak on night of retirement

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    Marion County (KPTV) — A longtime Marion County Sheriff’s deputy is receiving praise for saving a woman who was choking.

Most recently a patrol sergeant, Craig Cunningham had pretty much seen it all during his time on the streets of Marion County, and before that, in Woodburn and Portland.

But what happened this past Monday was something he says he never expected.

Earlier that day, Cunningham had signed off on his radio for the last time after serving 33 years in law enforcement. Monday night, he says he and his family went out to a celebratory dinner at a steakhouse in Tumalo.

“There was a lady at the other table that was with her family and she started choking on a piece of steak,” Cunningham said. “She reached up and kind of put her hand on her throat, which is the universal signal that something was wrong.”

Cunningham says during his three-decade career, including his 22 in Marion County, he received biannual training on how to properly perform the Heimlich maneuver. However, he said this was the first time in his career that he had to perform it in a real situation.

The restaurant’s manager, who was there Monday night, said it was clear Cunningham knew exactly what to do.

“By the time I walked across the dining room, he already had the situation under control and he had already dislodged whatever she was choking on,” Michael Moore, the manager, said.

“I just leaned her over a chair and then I pushed down on her diaphragm and I’d say after about 30 seconds, it came out–she was fine,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham’s wife, Michelle, said she considers her husband a hero.

Cunningham, however, is not one to boast.

“I didn’t do anything that anybody else wouldn’t have done,” he said.

Cunningham said he did not end up even getting the name of the woman he saved. But, he’s okay with that.

“She just said thank on her way out,” he said. “And to me, that was enough.”

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