Dr. Henry Heimlich, credited with saving thousands of people from choking to death, thanks to the method he popularized in 1974, has died at age 96. He had been experiencing complications from a massive heart attack he suffered in his home on Monday.
Since it was created, the Heimlich Maneuver has been both a life-saving tool and a part of our modern culture. Who knows how popular it would be if it was still known by its original term: subdiaphragmatic pressure. That’s the name it was originally given in a medical journal in 1974. However, the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association called Dr Heimlich and told him that so many lives had been saved in less than two months that they wanted to name the move after him. What an honor.
And, in 1980 the maneuver had gained enough prominence to be an entry in foreign-language dictionaries!
Heimlich’s family had this to say about a man who was a hero to so many:
“As a young surgeon, Dad was the first American to devise and perform a total organ replacement. Later, he came up with a device that saved thousands of soldiers’ lives during the Vietnam War. The Heimlich Chest Drain Valve is still used worldwide for patients undergoing chest surgery.
“Dad was firm in his convictions and passionate for his causes. He didn’t play politics well. Instead, he was single-minded in his quest to find better ways to save lives. Dad dreamed that anything was possible in the field of medicine, even when critics said otherwise.”
“There are several positions. Now everybody knows where you stand behind the person, put your thumb inside of your fist just above the bellybutton — remember, below the chest. And you grasp your fist with your other hand and you press inward and upward. Now you repeat that until the object comes out.
“But it also can be done with a person lying down on their back. You kneel astride their thighs and put one of your hands on top of the other, and the heel of the bottom hand just above the bellybutton, and press your weight in. And that’s how children have saved their parents. In addition, its widest use now is to save drowning victims.”
Our hearts go out to his family and friends.