No. 482



If you have ever found yourself in a position where you wanted to die
laughing but couldn't because of the circumstances, you will really
appreciate something that my wife Viola observed several months ago. She was
attending a luncheon with a group of ladies from our church and they had
just sat down to eat when one of the older women in the group got choked on
a piece of meat. As she struggled to free the food from her throat, one of
the other ladies said, "Does anyone know the Hellman?" After several more
seconds, with no response, she asked her question again, but this time
louder and in a more shrill voice, "Does anyone know the Hellman?" Viola
said, "I really felt for the lady who was choking, and it could have been
much more serious and that's why I couldn't laugh." You would just have to
know this lady to get the full impact, but what she was referring to was the
world famous Heimlich Maneuver, discovered and perfected by thoracic surgeon
Dr. Henry J. Heimlich.
Back when Viola told me about this experience, I never dreamed that I
would have the opportunity to personally interview Dr. Heimlich on the
telephone and have him tell me, first hand, how his discovery came about and
some of the other significant medical achievements that he has accomplished
in more recent times. Apparently he had read some of my columns on the
Internet, saw that both our wives have Parkinson's, and he had his
publicist, Bob Kraft, drop me a note to see if I might like to visit with
him. What a blessing it has turned out to be. Dr. Heimlich was a delightful
person to talk with and so very knowledgeable. He is still quite active in
medical research and spends time at the Heimlich Institute in Cincinnati,
Ohio. He turned 85 back on Feb. 3, 2005.
Dr. Heimlich has been married for 50 years to Jane Heimlich, the
daughter of dance legend, Arthur Murray, and a long-time advocate of natural
medicine. She is the author of "What Your Doctor Won't Tell You." She sent
Viola a personally signed copy of her book and it is fantastic. I plan to
write a column about Jane's book in the future. Viola and Jane have since
talked on the phone and they plan to stay in touch in the future. She is a
wonderful, gracious lady and we are honored to have these good people as our
new friends. But let me get back to what Dr. Heimlich shared with me,
because there is a possibility that it could save someone's life.
In response to one of my questions, he told me that he was first and
foremost a thoracic or chest surgeon. He said, "I must have been one of the
first because my license is No.139." The Heimlich Maneuver was discovered
because he often saw patients who were choking and he wanted to find a way
to prevent it from happening. With a great deal of experimentation, he
discovered that when someone was choking, another person could wrap their
arms around them from the back, place their interlocked hands above the
belly button and apply a series of quick upward jolts to cause the diaphragm
to force air from the lungs at a rapid rate. This rapid force of expelled
air is what causes foreign objects or matter to be dislodged from the
throat. One quick side note, according to Dr. Heimlich, never slap or beat
someone on the back when they are choking. This just causes the foreign
object to go even deeper.
Dr. Heimlich went on to tell me that he worked on developing the
Heimlich Maneuver for two years. In 1974, Dr. Heimlich reported the Heimlich
Maneuver in a medical journal and it quickly spread throughout the world. By
1985, it had saved so many choking victims, the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. C.
Everett Koop, officially approved it and stated the Heimlich Maneuver was
safe and effective and could be used on adults and children. More than
100,000 people worldwide have been saved by using the Heimlich Maneuver,
including many celebrities. Among these are Ronald Reagan, Ed Koch,
Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, Walter Matthau, Dick Vitale and Jack Lemmon.
Although Dr. Heimlich is best known as the developer of the Heimlich
Maneuver, he has been a medical pioneer for more than half a century, and he
is an advocate of natural and low-cost medical solutions whenever possible.
He developed a treatment for trachoma, a bacterial infection that can lead
to blindness, while serving with the U.S. Navy in China in World War II. He
invented the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve, which saved the lives of thousands
of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. He also performed the first esophagus
transplant surgery in the U.S., using a tube created from the portion of the
stomach, and which today helps overcome esophagus birth defects. These are
only a few of the things this outstanding physician has contributed to the
betterment of his fellow man. When I asked him how he would like to be
remembered, he said, "As someone who really cares about others. I am
presently involved in AIDS and cancer research and the emphasis of the
Heimlich Institute is 'A Caring World'." For more information, please visit
his Web site He and Jane are wonderful people.
(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You
may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)