A Greene County man is thankful his co-worker was in the right place at the right time.

It was a typical day at Greene County’s 911 dispatch center in Greeneville. Dispatchers were having their lunch in between calls. Assistant Director Jon Waddell was filling a seat that day.

“I got a piece of cornbread, or a bite of cornbread and put it in my mouth, and I think I started to talk,” Waddell remembers. “And when I did, that’s when it happened.”

Waddell started to choke.

“It’s scary. It’s never happened to me before,” he said.

His co-workers had their backs to him, so initially no one could see he was having trouble. Then, 911 Director Jerry Bird happened to walk in.

“He was the first one I looked at, and gave the universal choking sign to,” Waddell said.

“I said, ‘are you having issues?'” Bird said. “And he said yes so I just went over and started performing the Heimlich maneuver.”

Bird said his training took over.

“I gave a couple of thrusts, and asked him if it loosened up. He said no, so I gave him a couple more, and it loosened up,” Bird said.

Waddell is obviously grateful for Bird’s quick action, and Bird doesn’t take the praise easily.

“You hope you never have to use it, but I was fortunate to be able to do my part,” Bird said. “Dispatchers, doctors, nurses, first responders, they save lives every day. I just feel fortunate to help.”

“Of course, Jerry’s modest and said anybody back there would have done the same thing,” Waddell said. “Which, he’s absolutely right. He just happened to be the man that day. I’m very thankful, and blessed.”

Waddell is doing well. He even went back to work right after the choking incident. He says his new nickname around the office is “cornbread.”