Local chiropractor saves life of choking brother-in-law

At a cafe in Cleveland last weekend, John Pescho was enjoying a friendly breakfast with family until a piece of bacon lodged in his throat, making him fight for breath.

His brother in-law, Clifford Wagner of Saranac Lake, has cracked many backs in his career as a chiropractor, but saving Pescho from choking on food was a first.

Wagner didn’t charge for his body-contorting services that day, nor did he want any recognition in the Enterprise, but Pescho was insistent that he show appreciation for Wagner’s potentially life-saving efforts.

“He’s a good man and a good person,” Pescho said. “I just think some people should know about it.”

Wagner and his wife, Claire, were visiting her sister, Ann, in Brooklyn, Ohio, on Independence Day weekend. Pescho decided to take them into Cleveland for a bit of food and sightseeing.

During breakfast at the cafe, Pescho began to have a bit of trouble swallowing a piece of Canadian bacon from the baked eggs Benedict he had ordered.

“Everything was going well, and then that food got stuck in my throat,” Pescho said. He began to worry as he coughed, and sips of water wouldn’t resolve the blockage. “My throat was closing very fast, and I was in distress.”

Pescho was trying to mask the issue with a napkin to avoid stressing others. After about a minute, however, he knocked on the table to get Wagner’s attention, and the chiropractor acted instinctively.

Wagner – who is more accustomed to treating back pain, headaches and sports injuries – used the Heimlich maneuver to grant Pescho a breath of air during the breakfast scare.

“He just wrapped me up like a bear, and on the third lift it was dislodged,” Pescho said. “He basically saved my life.

“Breakfast was on me – well, quite literally,” Pescho joked, “But I paid for it as well.”

But Pescho said that Wagner, a practitioner with 20 years of experience, deserved more than a complimentary breakfast.

As Pescho predicted, Wagner modestly declined to comment on the event and asked the Enterprise not to publish the story, but Pescho wants the Saranac Lake community to know Wagner’s effort hasn’t gone unappreciated.