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Help...Someone is Choking!

Help...Someone is Choking!

In December 2022, the community lost a respected member and a valued local business owner in a tragic choking accident. Kiko Rodriguez was co-owner of Federicos Grill, an Italian fine dining restaurant in Niles, with his brother Rico. To honor his life, Washington Hospital Healthcare System (WHHS) has partnered with Federicos Grill to educate people in the Tri-City Area on immediate actions to take if someone is choking, which could save their life.

The Choking First Aid campaign launches on March 28—National Choking Awareness Day—at a private event where WHHS and Federicos Grill will join together to host local elected officials and community leaders to discuss how Kiko’s loss underscores the importance of local choking first aid awareness and education. Members of the WHHS Emergency Department will demonstrate how to save a choking person. Following this kickoff event, free choking seminars targeting food industry workers and others will be held in Fremont, Union City and Newark.

“Our upcoming choking prevention campaign is dubbed ‘Kiko’s Gift: A Legacy of Life and Love for Community’ in tribute to Kiko Rodriguez, a beloved member of our community whose devastating loss could have been prevented,” said Washington Hospital Healthcare System Chief Executive Officer, Kimberly Hartz. “This important campaign represents our commitment to improve the overall health and wellness of our community through health education and resources, as well as our responsibility to help local residents prevent life-threatening injuries as we become Alameda County’s next trauma center.”

Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death, with as many as 5,000 choking-related deaths in the United States every year. It is most common in young children and adults over the age of 65. Food is generally responsible for most adult choking incidents while children aged 1 to 4 often choke on candy, toys or coins. Prolonged or complete choking can be fatal and it can happen to anyone at anytime. Sometimes a choking person can cough forcefully enough to clear food or an object lodged in their throat. But when they can’t cough, speak or breathe, they need immediate help from someone who knows choking first aid.

Three complimentary trainings, open to both restaurant workers and the general public, will be held to educate people about how to help a choking victim dislodge what is stuck in their throat through back thrusts and abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver. One event is an in-person Health & Wellness seminar at Washington Hospital that will be recorded and made available online the following day. The other two live seminar events will be held at local restaurants, one in Union City and one in Newark, who have generously offered their space for these important events.

The dates for these seminars will be posted on and attendance is highly recommended for food servers or anyone who works in a restaurant since they spend many hours around people who are eating. However, choking can happen at home or anytime, so everyone can benefit from learning how to help a choking person dislodge a foreign object from their throat.

To learn more about this and other complimentary health-related seminars and events offered by WHHS, see For more information on choking prevention and rescue tips, go to the National Safety Council’s choking website at