28 May 2016

Heimlich uses own manoeuvre to save woman

1:24 pm on 28 May 2016

The 96-year-old inventor of the Heimlich manoeuvre has used his own technique to save a choking woman at his retirement home.

Dr Henry Heimlich.

A demonstration of the Heimlich manoeuvre. Photo: SCREENSHOT/BBC

Henry Heimlich helped dislodge a piece of hamburger from the 87-year-old woman's airway.

Dr Heimlich devised the technique in the 1970s, and he told the BBC he had demonstrated it many times but never used it in an emergency.

"I didn't know I really could do it until the other day," he said.

The manoeuvre is believed to have saved the lives of more than 100,000 people in the US alone.

Dr Heimlich said was having dinner with eight or nine others at the Deupree House retirement home in Cincinnati when he turned to talk to a woman at his table and noticed she was choking.

"She had a skin colour that was no longer pink. Her mouth was puffed up and her lips were out," he said.

"Though I invented the Heimlich manoeuvre I had never been called on to do it before."

First aid manuals recommend performing a maximum of 5 abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich manoeuvre, to dislodge the article from the airway.

Dr Heimlich told the BBC he had demonstrated the technique many times but never used it in an emergency. Photo: 123RF

Dr Heimlich described how he turned the woman, Patty Ris, around in her chair so her back was exposed.

The manoeuvre requires a rescuer to carry out abdominal thrusts on a choke victim to dislodge the blockage.

"I did it three times and a piece of meat with a bone in it came flying out of her mouth and she was all right," he said.

Staff had rushed to the table when the woman started choking, but stood back to allow Dr Heimlich to carry out his manoeuvre.

"Just the fact that a 96-year-old man could perform that, is impressive," his son Phil Heimlich told the Cincinnati Inquirer.

Dr Heimlich often meets people who were saved by the technique or who saved someone else, his son said.

People who have been saved by the technique include: former President Ronald Reagan, pop star Cher, former New York mayor Edward Koch and Hollywood actors Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, Walter Matthau, Carrie Fisher, Jack Lemmon and Marlene Dietrich.

In 2014 actor Clint Eastwood was credited with saving the life of a golf tournament director in California who was choking on a piece of cheese.

In the UK, celebrity promoter Simon Cowell was reportedly saved by comedian David Walliams, who carried out the Heimlich manoeuvre on him after a mint became stuck in his throat.