As far as innovators of potentially life-saving emergency medical methods go, you've definitely heard his name: Dr. Henry Heimlich died on Saturday, Dec. 17 at the age of 96. The creator of the eponymous Heimlich maneuver, he was directly responsible for countless saved lives through the years, thanks to creating a method that average, everyday people could easily learn and use to save others from death-by-choking. And if you've ever wondered when the Heimlich maneuver was devised, it all went down several decades ago.
It was created in 1974. At that time, techniques to save people in the midst of choking were far below the standard of efficacy that Heimlich's method ultimately provided. as The New York Times detailed in its obituary for the famed doctor, conventional methods recommended by the American Red Cross at the time included back slaps, and the insertion of a finger down the victim's throat, methods Heimlich believed were actually exacerbating the problem by pushing the obstruction deeper.
Indeed, rather that trying to trigger a gag reflex to eject the blockage, Heimlich believed expelling a burst of air from the lungs to push the obstruction up and out was the superior notion, and thus his Heimlich maneuver hit the scene.
Despite the fact that Heimlich was a vocal advocate for his method, and successfully disseminated it on a widespread enough scale that even people untrained in it somewhat instinctively understand how it's meant to work ― its prevalence in popular culture played a big part in this ― he'd never actually administered it himself in an emergency situation until earlier this year. Back in May, Heimlich rescued an 87-year-old woman from choking at the senior living center where they both resided, an experience that Heimlich described as "very gratifying" to The Guardian.
That moment was very important to me. I knew about all the lives my manoeuvre has saved over the years and I have demonstrated it so many times but here, for the first time, was someone sitting right next to me who was about to die.
Heimlich was in his 50s at the time he created the maneuver, already with an accomplished career as a chest surgeon, and more than half of his life behind him. And yet, he nonetheless devised one of the most valuable (especially thanks to the simplicity of its application) methods for emergency, life-saving care out there. Heimlich passed away in the hospital after suffering a heart attack earlier this week.
Images: Henry J. Heimlich/Facebook (1)