Over the past four months or so, we have been working to redraw the lines of the South Carolina House districts attendant to the once a decade reapportionment process to equalize and reconfigure the various legislative districts, based on the latest population figures to ensure equal voting rights.

I was on the subcommittee that held numerous public hearings all across the state and presented the proposed plan to the Judiciary committee. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I was prepared to join my subcommittee colleagues on the House floor the first week of this month to present the redistricting plan for deliberation and passage.

But all of that changed in an incident during the first few minutes of the Carolina-Clemson state rivalry football game with a medical emergency that I am blessed to have survived.

After the first face to face visit my children had with my mother since the start of the pandemic, my brood made the seemingly endless journey from my sister’s home in Maryland back to Columbia for the game. I escorted a friend and his son to their seats in the stadium and headed to join my bride with the other members of the board.

When I entered the lounge area adjacent to the seats, I picked up a piece of roast beef and took a bite. At the same time, I was greeted from behind and reflexively turned – in an instant, I knew I was in distress. I could not breathe.

I made it across the room to interrupt and grab the arm of a friend, signaling that I was choking. That is my last clear memory until 48 hours later when I woke up on a ventilator in the Prisma Hospital in Columbia.

Based on all accounts, but for the actions of a couple of people (who I consider to be God’s angels), I would not be here today.

Apparently the first folks to render aid tried the Heimlich maneuver but could not clear my airway. My first angel that night was an off-duty ICU nurse who came to the game at the last minute and responded to the call for help, immediately starting CPR. (A few days later at the hospital she “apologized” for “breaking all my ribs.”)

While EMS was in route, an effort was made to hook me up to an automatic defibrillator, based on the belief that I likely had had a heart attack. Fortunately, a doctor friend intervened, listened to a suggestion that I was not breathing because I was still choking and, against his training, shoved his hand down my throat and removed the blockage.

By that point, I had aspirated into my lungs and was not able to breathe on my on – hence the ventilator and four days in ICU.

While I was not able to vote for passage of the redistricting plan on the House floor, each day I am a bit stronger and healing nicely.

The outpouring of love, support and prayers has been overwhelming. I am convinced that many prayers were answered that night and I am blessed beyond measure.

I am immensely grateful.      

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov