H is for Doctor Henry Heimlich

In 2016, Heimlich himself performed the maneuver on an 87-year-old woman.

Henry Heimlich, the doctor who invented a lifesaving anti-choking procedure, died at the age of 96 in December 2016. He had some controversial medical theories, especially during his later years. But the Heimlich maneuver saved countless lives.

Performing abdominal thrusts involves a rescuer standing behind a patient and using his or her hands to exert pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm. This compresses the lungs and exerts pressure on any object lodged in the trachea, hopefully expelling it.”

The trick about the Heimlich maneuver is that one cannot really practice it on a real person, only a dummy. I learned it at a Red Cross training that I took in high school back in the late 1960s.

On a Sunday in May of 1995, I was in a real funk and had been in a pretty sour mood. I had to go to my ex’s place and get the last of my stuff. Then I had to go visit a choir member in the hospital who was dying. I didn’t bother to go to church for worship and only went to the meal afterward because I promised I would.

This woman, who was over 80 and who I did not know, was off to the side from the dining area, looking as though she were turning blue. Then someone opined that perhaps she might have eaten something. I recalled my training from high school but was worried about perhaps breaking a rib, which I knew could happen.

Still, I utilized it for the first time. After one thrust, some piece of meat came from her mouth and flew at least 15 feet. The pastor at the time – this was in my old church – was always one to come up with a smart-aleck remark. He said to me, “If you see ME choking, just let me die.”

Three years later, when I got the JEOPARDY! Information Sheet that asked for five items that they would use for their “chat cards”. I wrote, among other things about Earl Warren, Rod Serling, mountain climbing, and LPs, “The Heimlich maneuver works!”

Earlier in 2016, Heimlich himself performed the maneuver on an 87-year-old woman seated next to him at the senior community where he lived. The Heimlich maneuver is one of the most used medical procedures used by non-medical personnel.

ABC Wednesday – Round 20

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