Guest Post — June 5, 2013
Note from Dan: Our subject today is some serious stuff. It happened to me a few months ago, when I choked on a bite of a ham sandwich. Correspondent Herb Detweiler outlines his experience in more vivid detail than I can. I don’t know the answer to his question at the end. But I bet the good readers of this blog might. By the way, the headline above is a deliberate misnomer. Despite popular legend, Cass Elliott most likely died of a heart attack, not by choking on food – unlike Hall-of-Fame baseball player Jimmie Foxx.
By Herb Detweiler
The article in [Tuesday's] paper about choking deaths intrigued me. I am a “Heimlich survivor,” having been saved from a choking death by the maitre d’ at the famous “Longfellow’s Wayside Inn” in Sudbury, Massachusetts (a wonderful place to eat, by the way).
I was having dinner of prime rib, and a not-thoroughly-chewed piece of meat lodged in my trachea when I tried to chew and talk at the same time. What a frightening experience!
When I suddenly couldn’t breathe or make a sound and realized what had happened, I stood up and looked around the very large room to see if there was anyone handy who could administer the Heimlich Maneuver on me. I spotted the maitre d’ standing by the door across the way and waved my arms to attract his attention. When he looked my way I gave him the choking sign by putting my hand to my throat.
He had obviously been trained in the maneuver (thank God!), and immediately rushed to me. I turned my back to him and raised my sport coat so he could get a good grip with his fist on my abdomen. He was a large man gave a series of big upward jerks with his fist and other hand, practically lifting me off the floor. The meat popped out with the very first jerk, but he kept on with them, almost knocking the precious wind out of me! It was all over in a matter of minutes.
Thank heaven I had read about the maneuver and knew what to do, and thank heaven he had been trained in it (it is really quite simple). The poor lady who was my dining companion couldn’t figure out what was going on, and of course I couldn’t speak to tell her until it was all over.
My reason for contacting you is something I have wondered about ever since that experience, which was about 35 years ago: Is there any sort of “Heimlich Survivor’s Club” or such organization in existence? If not, I have thought it might be something interesting to pursue.
Each of us survivors has his or her own story to tell about how and where it happened, and I just think it might be very interesting to contact others who have been given a second chance in life by this simple but life-saving experience. By publicizing our stories we could help to educate others about the importance of knowing about this simple life-saving maneuver.
How would I go about finding out? I wonder if there may be others in the Roanoke area who are still with us because someone knew the Heimlich.