Heimlich Maneuver True Story about Saving a Life

Nov 1, 2015 |

Crazy Story about the Heimlich Maneuver

I promise you, (even though I’m a retired first responder) I’m really not going to blog ad nauseum about performing CPR and doing the Heimlich on people. That would get tedious. But I’m still going to write this particular blog on that subject because, well, I can, since it’s my blog, and also because I was thinking about an incident that happened a while back and I’d like to tell you about it.

I was in an office, having a conversation with a woman. I had known her for a long time.

She was a conservative woman in every way: clothes (sensible), hairstyle (no-fuss), manner of speech (measured); personality (careful). So this conversation was all about business and getting the task done. No extra chit chat or shooting the breeze.

She was sitting across from me, talking. In the middle of a sentence, she suddenly stopped speaking. A frightened look flashed across her face. She stood up and grabbed her throat. Her eyes widened and the look on her face turned to panic.

It happened so quickly that it took a minute to register what was happening. She hadn’t been eating anything, but I could see that for some reason, she couldn’t breathe. Something was apparently blocking her airway.

I went over behind her, put my arms around her, forming a ball with one hand over the other, and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

It took a couple of times, but suddenly something shot out of her mouth, she coughed, gasped for air, and then was breathing again. She sat down, taking in big gulps of air, and the terrified look on her face slowly gave way to relief.

“Are you okay?” I asked. It was kind of a dumb question, because at that point she was obviously okay, but I meant it more like, “Wow, that was scary. I know you’re okay now, but are you really okay?”

She nodded, but she was pale and obviously quite shaken. I stepped into a nearby office and asked the person there to call the woman’s husband. He worked in the same office, and he was there shortly and ushered her away with his arm around her shoulder.

I found out later that the blockage in the woman’s throat was just a pocket of phlegm that got stuck. But here’s the thing: it was really stuck, and it had sealed off her airway, and she could have died. Performing the Heimlich forced the phlegm out, and the woman is alive today.

This will undoubtedly be a bit of a soapbox that will sneak into my blogs now and again, maybe more often than I intend. But since this particular post is a story about saving someone’s life, I’m going to say it: learn how to perform the Heimlich. Next time it could be you sitting across from a choking person, and it could be you that saves them.

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