CINCINNATI — Henry Heimlich, a 96-year-old surgeon credited with developing his namesake Heimlich maneuver, has used the emergency technique for the first time himself to save a woman choking on food at his senior living center.
Heimlich said he has demonstrated the well-known maneuver many times since he developed it in the 1970s but had never had performed it on anyone who was choking — until Monday.
“The whole thing was very moving to me,” he said Friday. “I never thought that I would be saving someone’s life by doing the Heimlich maneuver.”
The retired chest surgeon was in the dining room at the Deupree House in Cincinnati, where he lives, when an 87-year-old woman began choking Monday night.
The dining room maître d’, Perry Gaines, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Heimlich dislodged a piece of hamburger from the woman’s airway and she quickly recovered. In a video interview provided to the Enquirer, choking victim Patty Ris said she wrote a note to Heimlich that said, “God put me in this seat next to you.”
The maneuver involves abdominal thrusts applied to a choking person in an effort to lift the diaphragm and force air from the lungs to dislodge any object.
Heimlich told the Associated Press on Friday that he was having dinner when he looked over at the woman sitting next to him and could see that her face was growing pink and she was obviously choking.
He said he got up behind her and began the technique.
“As soon as I did the Heimlich maneuver, a piece of meat with a bone in it immediately popped out,” he said.
Heimlich has said he developed the maneuver after reading accounts of people choking in restaurants, with many of them dying. Through the years, he appeared on radio and television shows including “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” to discuss and demonstrate the technique.
Heimlich’s views on how and when the maneuver should be used have put him at odds with some in the health field.
— Lisa Cornwell