In a gripping incident at Rainbow Junktion, the community cafe and foodshare in Leeds, dedicated volunteer Damien Murphy, aged 43, displayed exceptional bravery as he worked tirelessly to save a man choking on a piece of meat. The intense episode unfolded in detail at All Hallows’ Church in Regent Terrace, Burley, where committed volunteers prepare free or pay-as-you-like three-course meals for the underprivileged and run a non-referral food-share.
The dramatic rescue unfolded when a customer suddenly collapsed, struggling for breath and slipping into unconsciousness, triggering panic among both volunteers and patrons. Damien, with three years of volunteering experience, utilized his first aid skills, maintaining an unexpected calm demeanour despite grappling with a “severe” case of ADHD.
Recalling the critical moment, Damien shared, “While I was serving food, someone called my name, and I turned to see a lad who had completely lost consciousness. He’d choked.” The urgency of the situation prompted Damien to spring into action, attempting a Heimlich manoeuvre from behind and delivering chest compressions. With the man turning blue, Damien, along with other volunteers and customers, laboured for five minutes before successfully dislodging the obstruction from the man’s throat.
“I have a very severe case of ADHD, so while others succumb to panic, I inexplicably become calm. It’s a peculiar feeling. At that moment, you simply take charge and do what needs to be done,” Damien revealed about his uncharacteristic composure during such a tense situation. The life-saving efforts left him feeling “peculiar” for a week afterward, underscoring the emotional toll of such harrowing events.
Once revived, the man took a while to regain consciousness, having been without oxygen for approximately five minutes. Despite initial confusion, the appreciative customer, a regular at Rainbow Junktion, frequently approaches Damien with sincere gratitude. Damien, who underwent a personal transformation from being a customer himself to running several businesses, including a composting start-up, expressed his indebtedness to Rainbow Junktion, stating, “I owe Rainbow Junktion my life, and being able to repay that to just one of our customers is simply amazing.”
Damien’s altruistic actions on that fateful day not only saved a life but also highlighted the close-knit community at Rainbow Junktion. He commended another volunteer and a customer who played pivotal roles in the rescue, emphasizing the authentic care that staff and volunteers exhibit for the cafe’s visitors.
Reflecting on the incident, Damien noted, “It was remarkable; it took a while to truly grasp.” The man, now in robust health, stands as a living testament to the quick thinking and valour displayed by the volunteers at Rainbow Junktion, transforming an ordinary day of service into a life-altering event for one grateful customer.