Although he’s demonstrated it hundreds of times over the years, Dr. Henry Heimlich was recently faced with using his maneuver to actually save a life. The now 96-year-old didn’t hesitate to help when a fellow diner at the assisted living facility started choking. He ended up dislodging the foot from 87-year-old Patty Ris’s throat.
Heimlich told the Guardian, “That moment was very important to me. 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.”
Heimlich invented the maneuver in 1974, at a time when thousands of people each year died from choking. He was the one who pushed for the maneuver to be used by the general public instead of exclusively by health professionals. At the time, this push was frowned upon.
What is the Heimlich Maneuver?
In a basic form, the Heimlich Maneuver can be performed using the following directions. It should only be used on a person who is choking and cannot breathe. If they can breathe, a cough can be enough to dislodge an item from the throat.
- If the person is sitting or standing, position yourself behind the person and reach your arms around his or her waist. For a child, you may have to kneel.
- Place your fist, thumb side in, just above the person’s belly button.
- Grasp the fist tightly with your other hand.
- Make quick, upward and inward thrusts with your fist.
- If the person is lying on his or her back, straddle the person facing the head. Push your grasped fist upward and inward in a movement similar to the one above.