Inside Edition Tells Paramedic Student’s Story of Saving a Life
Heroic Deeds Run in Wil Stewart's Family

Photo gallery

 Sacramento State Paramedic Program student Wil Stewart with his parents, Traci and Bill Stewart. (Courtesy: Wil Stewart)

When Wil Stewart, a Sacramento State paramedic student, saved a man from choking to death, the national attention he received astonished him, even made him squirm a bit because, after all, he “wasn’t raised to go around bragging,” he said.

The story first appeared in a newspaper in San Luis Obispo, where Wil and several classmates sat in a cafe, waiting to be interviewed for internships at an ambulance company. It was 20 minutes before his turn at San Luis Ambulance when Wil saw a man in obvious distress. He immediately jumped to the man’s aid and performed the lifesaving Heimlich maneuver.

From California to New York

After spotting the story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, the Associated Press picked it up and immediately the story shot across the country: ”Student seeking paramedic internship saves choking man.” The New York Times, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The Sacramento Bee and yahoo news were among the media outlets posting the story. TV stations in Sacramento featured their hometown hero as well.

Traci Stewart was proud of her 23-year-old son, and people across the country were proud of him too. “She said for the past month, there hasn’t been a lot of good news,” Wil said, recounting their conversation, and that his swift action in San Luis Obispo was “a good story that people wanted to spread and share.”

Wil was still being interviewed several weeks later. Inside Edition chatted with Wil online: “Paramedic student saves choking man in coffee shop prior to internship interview.”  A producer for ABC News interviewed him for another version of the story: “Paramedic School Graduate Helps Choking Man in Cafe Ahead of Internship Interview.”

Heroic deeds run in the family

Wil may be getting all of the attention, but he wasn’t the first one to save someone’s life.

Wil Stewart is joined by his sister, Hannah, and parents Traci and Bill Stewart. (Courtesy: Wil Stewart)

Wil’s sister Hannah works as an emergency medical technician and was off-duty when an emergency occurred at their family home in Oakdale. “He came running out of the house and was beating on his chest,” Will says, of the incidenty, and immediately Hannah rushed to the man and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

It wasn’t a stranger Hannah saved from choking on a piece of food, though. “She saved our dad,” Wil says, proud that his younger sister was calm through a crisis.

A dream almost cut short

Wil was working as a volunteer firefighter in Tuolumne County, suffering from severe back pain. Tests revealed a potentially career-ending tumor on his spine. 

Wil Stewart has been a volunteer firefighter in Tuolumne County for several years. (Courtesy: Wil Stewart)

The tumor was benign, fortunately, but the surgery left him unable to stand on his two feet, let alone jump on a fire engine. He spent two months re-gaining the ability to walk, and in total, six months of aggressive physical therapy.

Amazing is the only way to describe Wil’s next accomplishment. Exactly one week after he finished his physical therapy, Wil started Sacramento State’s Paramedic Program. “I told the instructors I would be ready,” Wil said during the application process. And he was true to his word.

Staying level-headed

Wil’s family and mentors have kept him grounded through all the media attention. “He reacted in the right way and did all the right things,” says Sacramento Fire Captain Jason Hemler, director of the Paramedic Program. “I told him to enjoy this moment”  because he has a long tough career ahead of him.

Wil thinks he will need at least 10 years of experience before applying for his dream job as a flight paramedic or a member of a wilderness search-and-rescue team. And unless he’s specifically asked about the coffee shop incident, he doesn’t plan to mention it during any job interview, for the same reason he didn’t mention it during the internship interview.

Wil wants to be judged on the whole of his work and not a single incident. But the episode is still something to be remembered, he says, if only because “it reaffirms my decision to go into emergency medical services.”

Watch Fox40 Video: Sac State Student with Dreams of Being a Paramedic Saves Choking Man Before Interview

For more information, please visit the Paramedic Program web page.