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A woman in New Zealand's North Island sliced open her boyfriend's throat with a knife to save his life after he started choking on his food and almost died.

Sarah Glass, 45, was having a steak at a barbeque with her partner Isak Bester, 50, last month when the incident happened. Isak choked on a piece of steak and started gasping for breath.

The midwife started performing Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and mouth-to-mouth on her boyfriend to help him breathe again.

Glass told the Daily Mail: "He was now turning a very nasty shade of purple and he was dying in front of us."

She yelled and asked if anyone had a sharp object with which order to puncture a hole in his windpipe."I can't get air in him – I'm going to have to cut him," she said.

Glass was handed a Stanley knife blade, which she used to cut underneath Bester's Adam's apple. "I felt relief when I was handed the blade," she said.

She remembered how to carry out a tracheotomy from studying it in her 20s and decided to perform one on Bester to save his life.

"He was lying in a puddle of blood, I had blood all up my arms," she said. "I didn't notice until my friend handed me a flannel that I was covered in his blood."

After 20 minutes, the paramedics came and Isak was taken to a hospital. He was released a week later and is expected to make a full recovery soon. The doctors reportedly said he might have suffered brain damage or organ failure if Glass hadn't carried out the procedure.

Isak praised his girlfriend, calling her a "hero," and told Stuff: "If I had died or been brain damaged she would have carried that for the rest of her life."

Glass said: "We had no choice – it was do that or he was dead."