History Moment By William “Doc” Halliday

Heimlich Maneuver
Heimlich manueverA couple of weeks ago I did something that we all know we should not do. I swallowed a pill without drinking water with it. The pill caught in my throat and I was in distress to say the least. When it is food instead of a pill that an individual is choking on, it is sometimes referred to as a “café coronary”. The term refers to the act of choking on a mouthful of food, often taken from a plentiful plate at a restaurant.

In the 1970s, choking was the sixth most common cause of accidental death in the United States. A blocked windpipe often left a victim unable to breathe or talk, gesturing wildly to communicate distress that mimicked a heart attack. In four minutes, an oxygen-starved brain begins to suffer irreversible damage. Death would soon follow. At that time, the usual response upon discovering a choking person was to slap him or her on the back. But many doctors then postulated that a blow on the back would drive the object downward, lodging that obstruction even more tightly in the airway.

And then along came Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, a Cincinnati surgeon, who looked for a better mousetrap. Standard first aid for choking victims, advocated by the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association, was a couple of hard slaps on the back or a finger down the throat. But Dr. Heimlich believed those pushed an obstruction farther down in the windpipe, wedging it in more tightly. He knew there was a reserve of air in the lungs, and reasoned that sharp upward thrusts on the diaphragm would compress the lungs, push air back up the windpipe and send the obstruction flying out.

How would you prove this theory?…

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