A personal experience which happened during our family’s Easter dinner (2013) leaves me feeling compelled to ask you if you were faced with the situation where someone was choking, could you step up to the plate and perform the Heimlich Maneuver? I didn’t think that I would be needing to put my knowledge to the test – but then, when does one?
Here’s what happened:
The person who was having trouble was not actually choking, but certainly was in distress. She asked for help. Let me say – I was taught not to do the Heimlich Maneuver unless someone couldn’t talk or cough. Knowing this made me feel very uncomfortable when she asked me to help her. She could cough, though it was a very weak cough. And she was talking, but not talking as in being able to carry on a conversation. I felt she should have continued to cough to try to get the object out herself…but she didn’t want to do that…she wanted help.
So, I asked again if she was sure she wanted help expressing what I had been taught. She confirmed that she did, once again, so I did it. I performed the Heimlich Maneuver. Well, on the third thrust, a small piece of steak – think the size of a Ghirardelli chocolate chip (they’re a bit bigger than Nestle chocolate chips) – came flying out of her mouth. Obviously, she knew she needed help regardless of what I had been taught and she felt a lot better. But – it didn’t end there.
She felt another piece of food stuck in her throat, not as bad as the first one – think more on the lines of a pill getting stuck in your throat. She was taken to the hospital. Obviously, there was a reason she was having such trouble passing food and she needed to know what the reason was (eventually the piece did move out of her throat on its own while at the hospital, but it took some time). So, after examining her, the ER doctor enlightened us on what the problem could very well be.
The ER doctor went on to say that where she has a pacemaker – that sometimes the pacemaker can interfere with the esophagus where one can have trouble swallowing food. REALLY? It’s really too bad that she hadn’t been forewarned that this could happen. The poor woman was panic stricken – as I am sure anyone would be. Just think though – what if she had been all alone? Yes, one can do the Heimlich maneuver on themselves (see video below) – but when panic as such strikes – one doesn’t always think clearly. She is now being sent for an upper GI for more definitive answers.
The sad thing about this event – everyone around her at the house was screaming – Irene needs help – something’s wrong…BUT no one, other than myself, knew what needed to be done except for my mother-in-law who can’t bear weight when she stands (only when she walks – that’s another story for another Medical Monday post). And I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back – that’s not it at all. Disturbingly, I learned from this incident that many people don’t know what to do when faced with an incident like this. I just want you to be educated on what to do if you are faced with a situation where someone is choking.
Please – share this post with your loved ones – view the videos below whether you need to learn how to do the Heimlich Maneuver – or just would like a refresher. Arming yourself with the knowledge needed to help someone – just puts you in a better position to help whomever it may be that needs your help and the victim could always be you.
This video is what you would do on a conscious victim:
For a conscious infant ( under 1 years old) you perform this technique:
Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself:
Unfortunately I’ve had to use the Heimlich technique more than once – more than I want to think about. I think the most disturbing time I needed to help another was when it was a young child. I was at a friend’s house and looked out the kitchen window to find that this young child was in distress with no idea why. I ran to help him. He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t cough. Instinct stepped in and told me to perform the Heimlich Maneuver – out came a small piece of an ice chip. I was so relieved. But for all I knew, he could have been having an allergic reaction to a bee sting or something he ate and the Heimlich Maneuver wouldn’t have done a thing to help him. And unfortunately, I couldn’t find his parents to ask them any questions and he had no medical ID on.
Have you had to step up and help a choking individual? I’d love to hear your story…please share it…others can learn from your experiences 🙂