Deane Rhodes used to nag her 10-year-old son, John, for watching too much television. Not anymore.
Rhodes almost choked to death and believes one of her son's favorite cartoon shows helped him save her life.
John, a buoyant fourth-grader, regularly watches the Nickelodeon cartoon "Hey Arnold!"
The show stars Arnold, a boy with a football-shaped head. In one episode, Arnold's friend Eugene choked on a hot dog. Arnold performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved him.
Monday, Rhodes was standing in her kitchen, munching on a piece of leftover steak. She swallowed, and suddenly it was stuck.
She tried to move toward the phone to call 911 but realized she wasn't going to make it.
"I was thinking, 'Oh, I'm going down like Mama Cass,' " Rhodes said, referring to Cass Elliot, a member of the Mamas and the Papas who, according to urban legend, choked to death on a ham sandwich. (Elliot actually died of a heart attack.)
Recalling the "Hey Arnold!" episode that he saw recently and some Heimlich training he had received at school this year, John grabbed hold of his frightened mother and wrapped his arms around her abdomen.
Then John pulled -- so hard he lifted his mother off the floor.
He pulled again.
On John's third pull, the steak shot out, and his mother began breathing again.
This is not the first time a youngster has saved someone with the Heimlich maneuver and cited "Hey Arnold!" as inspiration.
In March, a 6-year-old in Bisbee, Ariz., saved her 18-month-old sister, who was choking on a marble. She told her mom Arnold taught her.
Last May, an 8-year-old girl in Glendale, Calif., used the Heimlich on a friend choking on a candy jawbreaker. Who taught her? Arnold.
"I can't believe it happened again," said Nickelodeon spokeswoman Nicole Mazer.
The choking incident is a minor part of one episode: The whole choking sequence lasts little more than 30 seconds.
John is humble about having saved his mother, but mom is quite proud. His reward? Ice cream.
"Something soft," she said.
And she's softened her stance on television: "I guess 'Hey Arnold!' works in our house."