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Sen. John Kerry used the Heimlich maneuver for the first time ever when he saved a colleague from choking, an aide to Kerry said.

"He just seemed to act very instinctively," Kerry aide Larry Carpman said Tuesday, describing how the Massachusetts Democrat came to the aid of Sen. Chic Hecht, a Republican from Nevada.Kerry was getting off a second floor elevator in the Capitol around lunchtime when he saw Hecht buckled over in the corridor, said Carpman, who was there.

"The first thing he did was ask Hecht, `Are you OK?"' the aide said. But when there was no answer, Kerry realized Hecht was choking and couldn't breathe, Carpman said.

"He knew that it was not an ordinary kind of clearing of one's throat. Senator Hecht was motioning that he couldn't breathe," Carpman said.

Kerry then began administering the Heimlich maneuver, which dislodged food from Hecht's windpipe.

Hecht, who was leaving the Senate Republicans' weekly luncheon meeting when the incident happened, later sent Kerry a personal note of thanks.