Staff Spotlight: Financial operations clerk uses Heimlich to save a life

Many people wonder how they would react in a life-threatening situation. Heidi Ashby-Rogge faced this situation recently when a co-worker was choking, and she knew exactly what to do.

Heidi Ashby-Rogge, left, saved Robin Woodard by using the Heimlich maneuver.(Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

Ashby-Rogge, a student loans financial operations clerk, learned the Heimlich maneuver 30 years ago when her children were young. She recently had to put her knowledge to the test again. “This is the third time I have had to use the Heimlich maneuver over the years,” Ashby-Rogge says.

Robin Woodard, a collections counselor in the student loans and collections office who has been working at U-M for 16 months, was eating lunch in her cubicle on a recent day when she felt rice lodge in her windpipe. “I tried to get the food to pass by standing up and drinking small sips of water, but the food was stuck. I could not breathe,” Woodard says.

She walked to the next cubicle, but nobody was there. She stood for a moment and asked herself where she could go for help, and Ashby-Rogge’s name popped into her head.

“I proceeded to walk straight to her desk. She was sitting in her chair working when I tapped her on the shoulder,” Woodard says. Ashby-Rogge saw Woodard’s face was pale and that she was gasping for air. “I asked her if she was okay, and she shook her head no,” Ashby-Rogge says. Without hesitation, Ashby-Rogge administered the Heimlich maneuver, which she had to do three times before some of the food came up. Woodard then could breathe, so Ashby-Rogge helped her into the bathroom where she dislodged the rest of the food. Soon, Woodard was breathing normally again and the color returned to her face.

Ashby-Rogge, a Mount Clemens native, came to the University five and a half years ago. A genealogy buff, she just received three certificates from the city of Detroit that identify her as a relative of the city’s first settlers. “I am very proud of this,” Ashby-Rogge says. “You had to show proof that your family was in Detroit between 1701 and 1710,” she says. In addition to genealogy, Ashby-Rogge also enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren, all under the age of 8.

Woodard, who originally is from Detroit and likes spending time with friends and her grandmother Samantha, as well as gardening and working out in her free time, says she will never forget her co-worker’s actions. “Heidi truly saved my life. I am forever grateful,” Woodard says. “I am so glad the right person was there for me at the right time. It was a very scary and emotional experience for both of us.”


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.