Heimlich Maneuver Inventor Uses It For First Time At 96

| by Jordan Smith
Dr. HeimlichDr. Heimlich

The man who gave his name to the Heimlich Maneuver got his first chance to use it in real life at the age of 96.

Dr. Henry Heimlich, a surgeon who now lives in a Cincinnati, Ohio, retirement home, was eating dinner on May 23 when another resident began choking on a piece of meat, The Guardian reported.

A staff member was on the way to help, but Heimlich stepped in.

“I did the Heimlich [Maneuver] – of course,” Heimlich told The Guardian in a May 27 interview. “She was going to die if she wasn’t treated. I did it, and a piece of food with some bone in it flew out of her mouth.”

The 87-year-old woman, Patty Ris, did not lose consciousness during the incident.

Reports suggest Heimlich’s technique, which he pioneered in 1974, has saved thousands of lives around the world.

“That moment was very important to me," Heimlich said. "I knew about all the lives my [maneuver] 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."

The following day, Heimlich had dinner with Ris to celebrate her lucky escape.

“She told me how wonderful and fortunate she felt,” Heimlich added.

Heimlich first advanced his theory in an essay called, "Pop Goes the Cafe Coronary," which was published in the June 1974 issue of the Emergency Medicine journal, according to PBS. Cafe Coronary is a medical term for choking on a mouthful of food.

“Place the thumb side of your fist before the rib cage, just above the belly button, grasp the fist with the other hand and press the fist inward and upward," Heimlich wrote. "Perform it firmly and smoothly and repeat until choking object is dislodged."

Heimlich's intention was for the maneuver to be something members of the general public could use, and not just medical professionals.

His maneuver appears on posters in cafes and restaurants across the country and is taught in many schools.

But not everyone recommends its use.

In 2006, the American Red Cross stopped referring to the Heimlich Maneuver in favor of advising those helping conscious choking victims to apply a combination of slaps on the back and “abdominal thrusts” until the object is dislodged, PBS reported.

Sources: The Guardian, PBS / Photo credit: Cincinnati Business Courier

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