The Reality of Heimlich’s Invention
We walked through the corridor to his office. He had visited Bordeaux. I asked him how his holiday was and he told me other than the attack in Nice that week, he had a grand time. We all love France. But then he said in a quick blurt, almost in a bid not let his memory forget this life changing event he was about to tell me. ‘June, something incredible happened’.
Right, ok. What?
Apparently, he was having lunch in a busy outdoor restaurant when he noticed this man performing the most ‘horrendous’ method of the Heimlich manoeuvre with his hands wrapped around this woman’s upper torso.. I couldn't imagine choking on a piece of French made steak.
She had choked on a piece of steak. The man was her husband. No one else had noticed what was going on. He knew that if he didn’t act fast, she may have choked to death. Flight or fright moment?? He runs up to her trying to remain as calm as possible but praying that the manoeuvre works and this woman doesn’t die ‘on him’. The anxieties of a doctor, eh?
That feeling when you take it upon yourself to walk into a world of unwanted responsibility and daring risks is what makes us human and humane – and it comes with a shit load of bravery and responsibility that could be frightening especially in such instances.
Heimlich and CPR are life changing moments - phenomenal model of saving people lives but most doctors and humans wish not to have to administer it to anyone.
But he told me he also thought about plan B, cutting her throat open as he scanned rapidly for the steak knife to perform actual surgery if all failed.
Don’t fret, he is an experienced Doctor, with surgical experience trained all over the world with a whole hell of experience.
So he went once, twice, thrice and on the fourth go, that piece of steak came flying out. It was indeed quite a poignant moment for him. So I said to him, I had read an article a couple of weeks ago about Henry Heimlich himself who invented this amazing life saving model in 1974, currently widely used not only by clinically trained professionals around the world but also by a global public at large. Before Heimlich invented this model, thousands of people globally choked to death each year.
The article I read recently tells us how Henry himself living in a care home in Cincinnati now in his 90s, had performed his own manoeuvre for the first time ( I will say that again, for the first time!) on a fellow resident. The 87 year old lady had choked on a piece of meat over dinner and struggled to breathe. Heimlich successfully dislodged the piece of meat from her airway.
When asked about how he felt, Heimlich said:
“It was very gratifying,”. “That moment was very important to me. I knew about all the lives my manoeuvre has saved over the years and I have demonstrated it so many times but here, for the first time, was someone sitting right next to me who was about to die.”
Heimlich had never performed HIS own manoeuvre until he was 96. It’s fascinating.
It’s a recommended life skill to learn. He (and Heimlich) saved two women’s lives in the space of 8 weeks. If you ever choke, just indicate the way Heimlich demonstrates it in th