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« Brain food from the heartland

Thank You, Dr. Heimlich

By Louie b. Free (Contact)


Published December 18, 2016

Just over 30 years ago, I was in a room where a 5 year old reached up and grabbed his mother's beautiful long blond hair....his lips were blue...he was choking on a piece of hard candy that someone had given him . A man standing close began hitting him on the back. I pulled him away and did the Heimlich maneuver on the boy. In my head, I can still hear the sound of that piece of candy hitting the wall. After that, I have used the Heimlich maneuver two additional times that were considered emergencies. I've often thought back at how helpless, impotent I would have felt to have to hold someone while they choked , possibly to death. Years later, I had the honour to have Dr Henry Heimlich on the show. To be able to speak with the man who gifted the world with a simple, an easy to perform life-saving technique was wondrous to me. As I recounted the story of the 5 year old to Dr. Heimlich, I became a bit emotional..well, quite emotional. Dr. Heimlich responded with love, as if it was the first time he heard a story of someone using the technique he developed to save someone. Over the years I had Dr. Heimlich on many times. We talked on and off air. I recall Doc talking about saving drowning victims with his technique....and, saving animals' lives. Doc Heimlich was always so humble. He always spoke so lovingly about his wife Jane. I was so honoured when he asked me to interview Jane Heimlich on the show. I also got connected with Doc's wonderful daughter, Janet Heimlich, award-winning journalist and the author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, the first book to take an in-depth look at child abuse and neglect in the United States that is enabled by religious belief. She is also Executive Director of the Child-Friendly Faith Project, a national, nonprofit public charity that educates the public about the impact that religious, spiritual, and cultural beliefs and practises have on children. I consider Janet a friend. I often wondered why no one had a Heimlich maneuver registry. I've wondered just how many times The Heimlich Maneuver has been used, world wide in emergency situations. I've used it 3 times, then just how many??? I recall Doc , on his 90th birthday receiving a call from me, on air...(after I sang happy birthday) " So, Doc, how are you on this, your 90th birthday?" He responded as he usually did: " Well, Louie, my tennis game is improving !" As I write this, the day after Dr. Heimlich passed,I wonder just how many people around the world are using the Heimlich maneuver, now, to save a life and save their own soul, the soul of someone who would have forever felt a sense of guilt, helplessly watching someone choke to death. I am so grateful that I had numerous opportunities to personally thank, Hank, Dr. Henry Heimlich, the man who gifted our world, gifted me with a simple, effective technique to save a life. As I write this, I cannot help to think about how I might have felt, 30 years later, had I not been able to clear the air pathways of that beautiful little 5 year old boy... that boy, now a man, my son....


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