Friday, October 20, 2017

Why you should practice and be prepared to administer The Heimlich Maneuver

Many years ago I was attending a luncheon organized by the biomedical section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC.  The speaker was Dr. Henry Heimlich, who was just winning recognition for a new procedure to prevent choking to death from a foreign object (food) or phlegm obstructing the throat. Dr. Heimlich explained how he had discovered the method through studying the pneumatic physiology of the lungs.  He showed a film that demonstrated the method, which entails clasping the victim under the rib cage and compressing, producing a flow of air from the lungs that clears the passage. 
Now there are excellent online videos that demonstrate the method.  You should check them out, practice, and be prepared to act if someone experiences chocking, especially giving notice by placing one hand on her or his throat.
Not long after not after I attended Dr. Heimlich’s luncheon address and film, my daughter was stricken with severe bronchitis. See seemed ok, apart from needing bet rest and I was walking to the car when she appeared on the back porch of our home. Having heard my description of Dr. Heimlich’s speech she held her hand to her throat, giving the signal that she couldn’t breathe. I rushed up to the porch, cleared her throat so she could breathe and then sped with her to the nearest hospital emergency room.  Her life was saved.
Some time later , my wife and I were enjoying a steak dinner in my Washington apartment, overlooking Massachusetts Avenue. She attempted to swallow an overlarge piece of steak and it became lodged in her throat.  She couldn't breathe and immediately raised her hand to her throat – the choking signal.  I immediately got behind her, compressed her abdomen and cleared her throat.  Though Dr. Heimlich advised taking a chocking patient to the emergency room for further evaluation, she felt fine. We both had a second glass of good red wine and finished our evening.
 Whenever I hear someone who seems to be choking, I am still likely to jump up and be ready to render assistance.  My children call me “Heimlich Man” – a family joke.  I don’t mind.  Had I not attended Dr. Heimlich’s lecture, my (now former) wife and daughter might be dead.