Inside Edition Tells Paramedic Student’s Story of Saving a Life
Heroic Deeds Run in Wil Stewart's Family
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.”
And so Traci Stewart was the one to put things into perspective for her 23-year-old son. Of course, she was proud that Wil rushed over and helped a stranger in need, and she was especially gratified when word of his lifesaving deed lifted the hearts of thousands.
“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 to share.”
The latest story was posted by InsideEdition.com, which chatted with him online: “Paramedic student saves choking man in coffee shop prior to internship interview.” Twenty minutes before that interview with San Luis Ambulance, Wil was performing the Heimlich maneuver.
Heroic deeds seem to run in the Stewart family. Wil may be getting all of the attention, but he wasn’t the first one to save a life.
Hannah Stewart works as an emergency medical technician for an ambulance company and was off-duty when an incident occurred at the family home in Oakdale over a year ago. “He came running out of the house and was beating on his chest,” Will says, of the incident, and immediately Hannah performed the Heimlich maneuver.
It wasn’t a stranger Hannah saved from choking on a piece of food. “She saved our dad,” Wil says, proud of his younger sister’s training to react calmly through a crisis.
Wil’s dream of becoming a paramedic almost didn’t happen. He was working as a volunteer firefighter in Tuolumne County and suffering from severe back pain. At the time he thought it was an occupational hazard, until tests revealed a tumor on his spine.
Fortunately, the tumor doctors removed was benign, but he spent two months re-gaining the ability to walk and in total, six months of aggressive physical therapy.
Believe it or not, Wil started Sac State’s Paramedic Program one week after his therapy wrapped up. “I told the instructors I would be ready,” and he was true to his word.
Wil’s family and mentors have kept him grounded through all the 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,” Hemler added, because he has a long tough career ahead of him.
At least 10 years of experience is what Wil thinks he’ll need for his dream assignment as a flight paramedic or on a wilderness search-and-rescue team. But unless he’s specifically asked about it, he doesn’t plan to mention the coffee shop incident during a job interview, for the same reason he didn’t bring it up during the internship interview.
He wants to be judged on the whole of his work and not a single incident. But the episode is still something he’ll think about from time to time, Wil says, if only because “it reaffirms my decision to go into emergency medical services.”
For more information, please visit the Paramedic Program web page.