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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Whoomp' on back saves father's life

By Coco Zickos
The Garden Island

LĪHU'E, Kaua'i One minute he was watching television, laughing with his son and snacking on Tiger Milk bars and honey. The next minute, Michael Herbert couldn't catch his breath.

About 30 heart-pounding seconds later, Michael Herbert said he felt his 8-year-old son, Johnathan Herbert, "whoomp" him in the middle of his back, ultimately saving his life.

"It was the scariest moment I've ever had," he said.

While enjoying one of their favorite treats together last month, Michael Herbert was horrified to discover a piece of food had "lodged in my throat," he said.

He said all he could think was, "I'm going to die right now ... I'm going to die right in front of my son." And then, "Boom, he got me."

To have his wits together enough to know exactly what to do and understand that calling 911 would have taken too long is remarkable, Michael Herbert said.

Even though his dad said he remained calm and stayed by his side the entire time, Johnathan Herbert said he was nervous during the experience.

Michael Herbert, a retired dive boat and scuba instructor, attributes much of Johnathan Herbert's skill to his CPR training and karate practice. But Johnathan Herbert is also "beyond his years," he said.

The Kalāheo second-grader said he certainly feels good about saving his father's life.

He still doesn't realize the magnitude of what he did, Michael Herbert said.

"In my eyes and heart, he literally saved my life," he said. "He wasn't ready to go to Daddy's funeral."