NEWTON – Applying the Heimlich maneuver on someone choking on food can look as if you’re pounding on someone.

Just ask State Rep. Tim Hodge, D-North Newton.

Hodge devotes his days to “lawyering,” in his words, but likes to spend about an hour or so in the evenings connecting with constituents. Before the first pitch of the Detroit Tigers-Kansas City Royals baseball game July 19, Hodge bounced up to the Newton doorstep of Antonio Sandate, 68. He had a plate of food and was getting ready to watch the game, and Hodge remembers feeling slightly jealous.

“He’s a solid guy and I just wanted to say thanks for all he does for our party,” Hodge said.

Sandate had just announced his retirement and was “super excited,” Hodge said. “We talked a little bit, he’s talking a mile a minute with his mouth full.“I’m saying goodbye,” Hodge said, and as Sandate is turning in the doorway, Hodge hears him inhale a chip. Hodge sees through the glass Sandate falling down by his couch.

“I’m saying goodbye,” Hodge said, and as Sandate is turning in the doorway, Hodge heard Sandate inhale a chip. Hodge watched through the glass and saw Sandate falling down by his couch.

“He’s having troubles,” Hodge said, so Hodge opened the storm door and entered, kneeling down by Sandate. Was he choking? Having a heart attack? Sandate pointed to his throat. Did he want Hodge to try the Heimlich maneuver? Sandate nodded.

Sandate was on his side on the floor and Hodge had one hand on his spine and used his other fist to strike the chest below the sternum. The choking stopped but Sandate’s wife, getting ready for work, heard the commotion and ran into the living room to see Hodge pounding on her husband’s chest.

What is going on here? Why is Antonio on the floor? And her question for Hodge: Who are you?

Hodge remembered saying that he knew it looked strange.

“At first, she was really taken aback about it,” Sandate said. “She didn’t recognize him at first, didn’t know who this guy was. We kind of laugh about it now.” 

Sandate said he had talked to Hodge about a week before at a softball tournament, and said he “comes around and visits with people.”

Sandate credits Hodge for stepping up, not shying away, when he needed help.

“You never know what can happen," Sandate said. "Tim happened to be in the right place at the right time.”