Did you know that the Heimlich maneuver has only been around since 1974? I sure didn’t. I thought it was much older than that. But that’s just one of the things I came to know while reading news of Dr. Henry Heimlich’s death. I also discovered that while it’s helped countless people save countless lives, Dr. Heimlich himself never had to use it on someone until a few months before he died, at least according to he and his family.
Last Monday the retired chest surgeon encountered a female resident at his retirement home in Cincinnati who was choking at the dinner table.
Without hesitation, Heimlich spun her around in her chair so he could get behind her and administered several upward thrusts with a fist below the chest until the piece of meat she was choking on popped out of her throat and she could breathe again.
“It was very gratifying,” Heimlich told the Guardian on Friday by telephone from Cincinnati.
“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.”