Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rant #1,322: Saving a Life

The Heimlich Maneuver, or whatever it is called today, has been in the news recently in New York.

Evidently, a severely autistic young woman choked to death on a piece of food when her handler, who was supposed to be by her side at all times, stepped away for a moment or two.

The whole story is a tragedy, and if only her handler had been by her side, this maneuver could have been used, and the autistic woman's life might have been saved.

This maneuver--which has various permutations, but the main one is standing behind an adult who is choking, coming in from the back, placing your clenched fist right below the rib cage, and pushing in--has been around for a long time. I think I first heard about it in the 1970s.

Previous to this, if someone was choking, you hit them on the back, gave them water, etc. This was found not to be very effective.

Anyway, the reason I bring this whole thing up is that I am going to tell you about a brief episode that happened more than 20 years ago between myself and my daughter.

I was divorcing her mother at the time, and I had weekend visitation. We went to a local McDonald's as we always did, because my daughter adored McDonald's at the time. She was about four years old, and she just loved that place, so we ate there every time I saw her.

Anyway, we got our usual meals, me a Big Mac and her a Kid's Meal with a cheeseburger.

We were eating, and all of a sudden, my daughter starting turning colors. She wasn't really coughing or gagging, but I could see that something was wrong.

I jumped up, realized that a piece of the hamburger was caught in her throat, and really without thinking, applied the Heimlich Maneuver to her little frame.

By the second or third push, the piece of hamburger popped out of her throat and mouth like a missile coming off the launch pad.

She got her color back, I asked how she was doing, and when everything settled down, we continued to eat, almost as if nothing had happened.

I remember an elderly gentleman sitting at the next table said to me, "Good job," and that was pretty much that.

Happily, I have not had to do something like this again since that time.

So the current story conjured up that prior incident between myself and my daughter.

And the funny thing is that now that my daughter is 26, she still remembers the incident, even though it happened when she was such a young kid.

Anyway, if you don't know the Heimlich Maneuver, it can safely be applied to anyone, even pregnant women and babies, but it has to be done in a certain way based on who you are applying it to.

It is simple to learn, and thank God I was watching the news closely during those years, because that is where I learned how to apply it. If I didn't know what to do, who knows what would have happened.

People choke on food all the time, and not just little kids who are constantly putting things in their mouths, but older people too.

It is a good thing to know, and you can always keep it in your back pocket and pull it out when needed.

So learn the maneuver, especially during the holiday season, when eating is almost as important as the gift giving.

I saved my daughter's life all those years ago, and I just wonder if the handler was around, whether this young autistic woman would still be around too.

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