Lifestyle & Human Interest

Teacher Becomes Hero After Spotting 100-Year-Old Woman Stopped in Traffic, Choking on Cough Drop


Ryan Roberts, 45, teaches ceramics at the Iolani School in Honolulu. He’s following in his father’s footsteps, as his dad also taught ceramics at the school and is well-known by the locals.

Roberts was driving home from a day of work on Wednesday, his two sons in the car with him, when he spotted a concerning sight: a car stopped in the far left lane, passenger door open into traffic.

“The passenger door was open, so it was blocking part of the middle lane,” Roberts told Fox News.

A woman was standing in the road, clearly panicking.

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“This woman is going to get hurt,” Roberts remembered telling his sons. “She’s standing in the middle of the road.

“It turned out to be a daughter trying to help her mother who was choking. The daughter was kind of frantic and the mother wasn’t doing too well at that point. She was gasping, starting to pass out.”

Roberts immediately pulled over and ran to help. He approached the elderly mother (who was reported to be 100 years old), turned her around, and administered the Heimlich maneuver. His first attempt was gentle because he didn’t want to injure her, but it was too gentle and didn’t work.

“I tried again a little harder,” Roberts said. “I gave her [the Heimlich] a third time pretty good. She coughed quite a bit, some stuff came out and then she started crying. I said, ‘Hey, if you’re crying, you’re breathing, so stop crying and just concentrate on breathing. You’re OK.’”

Later, Director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department James Ireland painted the picture with details that conveyed just how dire the situation was.

“This teacher [Roberts] who had just gotten off work and had splashes of paint and clay on him because he works as a ceramics teacher, just springs into action,” he said, according to Fox News.

“She started choking, and it sounds like it was a complete airway obstruction. She was not able to move any air at all, so that is a true desperate emergency that really needs immediate action.”

Ireland explained that the woman had been choking on a cough drop, and that the closest hospital was at least 10 minutes away, making Roberts’ intervention incredibly providential.

Once the cough drop had been dislodged and Roberts was sure the woman was stable, he spotted someone wearing a badge and got his attention.

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“I flagged him down real quick, and it turned out he was an EMS and that was wonderful,” Roberts said, then addressed the woman.

“I told her, ‘I’m glad everything is OK.’ When the fire department pulled up, I didn’t think I was needed anymore, so I just ducked out and left.”

He left without giving a name or needing any sort of recognition. Little did anyone know, he’d just taken a CPR refresher course two weeks ago, and this was not the first life that skill had saved — it was his fifth.

Despite his attempt to get away unidentified, Ireland wasn’t about to let the hero remain unsung. He found out that the good Samaritan had been wearing a shirt with the Iolani School logo, and was able to find him through that piece of information.

“He didn’t need any recognition,” Ireland said. “He just made sure she was OK, thanked the rescuers who came and off he went. Not seeking the limelight, not seeking any accolades. But he sure deserves them.”

Head of Iolani School Tim Cottrell praised Roberts’ actions upon finding out about the work of mercy he’d performed.

“[Ryan] immediately knew, ‘OK, I’ve got to do something.’ That’s a really unique and special perspective on your role in the world,” Cottrell acknowledged.

“We’re an all-for-one, one for all, community and humility is a big part of who we are as a school. So, somebody like Ryan [Roberts], he’s not going to toot his own horn.”

“Teachers have this innate sense,” Ireland added. “There’s something in them that they want to help, they want to serve. I hope his story will inspire others to learn CPR and learn these techniques that you could need at a moment’s notice.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking