Happy Birthday Heimlich Manoeuvre
- You were published in Emergency Medicine on this day in 1974, to great controversy.
- There is, apparently, some skepticism out there as to your efficacy.
- The Wikipedia article (which for some reason prefers the term “abdominal thrusts”) has a whole section in which many doctors robustly contend that you don’t even work.
- “There was never any science here. Heimlich overpowered science all along the way with his slick tactics and intimidation, and everyone, including us at the AHA, caved in.”
- I like that: “overpowered science”. I like how science is fully personified, like it is a small-town rube who is easily swayed by smooth talking.
- I dunno, though.
- The Heimlich Manoeuvre just seems like the kind of thing that would work. I do not think that this is a situation in which the ever-credulous Mr. Science has once again been fooled.
- I can provide actual evidence that it works, in fact.
- One time, I was at my parents’ house, and I was eating an orange and irritably flipping through a magazine.
- It’s important to state here that I’ve had a lifelong fear of choking, and that I instinctively sit up very straight whenever I eat fruit.
- You must never ever eat fruit when you are lying down, because you will certainly begin to choke on it.
- I don’t know why I feel this about fruit, specifically, but never mind.
- The point is that I was not only not lying down, I’d actually stood up in order to eat that orange.
- This makes the next part of the story so much more savage.
- What happened is that I turned a page of the magazine and then tried to swallow, and that didn’t work, and then I tried to breathe, and that didn’t work either.
- It just…didn’t work. Suddenly it was no can do on the breathing, and it was so scary, so absolutely fucking terrifying.
- I stood there trying to gulp in air and just…nothing happened. It’s very hard to explain what it felt like, except that I was pretty sure I was going to die.
- I ran into the kitchen, where my brother was, and pointed at my throat.
- Liam’s eyes went HUGE, and he said “fuck” about thirty times, and then he did the thing that you are supposed to do in this situation.
- Liam has never had any first-aid training, but still he managed to do it exactly right. Afterwards he told me that he knew how to do it from watching The Simpsons. We have both learned many things this way.
- The point is that it worked. He punched me in the diaphragm a bunch of times, and this big pithy piece of orange popped out my mouth and sailed to the other end of the room.
- He saved my life! Liam and the Heimlich Manoeuvre saved my actual life!
- I am very grateful to you both, and to the ever-credulous Mr. Science.
- Happy birthday.