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Monday, April 22, 2024
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Saving Lives: The Heimlich Maneuver

Choking is a serious threat to the lives of adults and children and is the fourth leading cause of acci­dental death in the United States. Until 1974, many people believed choking victims were having a heart attack, which they termed “Cafe Coronary”. However, chest surgeon Dr. Henry J. Heim­lich understood that if something was blocking a person’s airway, it could look like a heart attack. After conducting research, Dr. Heimlich discovered that pushing in and up under the diaphragm forces resid­ual air from the lungs, forcing the offending blockage to dislodge, allowing the choking victim to breathe again. While Dr. Heimlich named this technique the “sub-dia­phragmatic abdominal thrust”, the media termed it the “Heimlich Ma­neuver”.

According to the Heimlich In­stitute, since 1974, the Heimlich Maneuver has been used to save thousands of lives, including those of President Ronald Reagan, Cher, and Elizabeth Taylor. Young peo­ple have also been honored for us­ing the Heimlich Maneuver to save the lives of friends and teachers, like the case of 13-year-old Eathan Cobbin, who saved his best friend, and seventh grader Tyler Rea, who saved one of his teachers at a bas­ketball game. In Lake County, one member of our community is at­tributed to using the Heimlich to saving 12 lives.

Established in 2013, Heimlich Heroes is a program designed for youth in grades 1-7 to learn the Heimlich Maneuver. This pro­gram has been shared with youth at the Home Alone Safety and Babysitter Clinic offered through Lake Su­perior Community Education, and with girls in American Heritage Girls Troop MN2931. The youth equipped by the Heimlich Heroes are now more aware of choking hazards, how to prevent choking, and what to do if they see someone choking or are choking themselves.

Covering over 10,000 square miles, the Arrowhead Region is vast, and it may take time for emer­gency services to arrive. Choking prevention, knowing the signs of choking, and knowing what to do when you or someone else is chok­ing, is something every person can learn and do to prevent a death by choking.

For more information on classes pertaining to learning the Heimlich Maneuver and other safety courses, check out or contact the Duluth Red Cross through their website at https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class.

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