Robert’s column

Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Good to know the Heimlich manoeuvre

I knew immediately what the problem was

Have you ever almost choked to death after getting something lodged in your throat?

It happened to me once several years ago when a piece of pork chop I was eating went down the wrong way.

I began choking on it and despite my body’s best efforts to remove the blockage that way, it stubbornly stayed in place and I couldn’t breath.

I was alone at my home at the time and there was no one to help me so I self administered the Heimlich manoeuvre, in which I placed one fist slightly above my navel, held my fist with my other hand and bent over the kitchen table and then shoved my fist inward and upward.

The procedure worked, and the piece of pork chop was dislodged and I could, thankfully, breath again.

I was greatly relieved, but lost my appetite for the pork chop and threw what remained of my dinner out.

I didn’t learn the Heimlich manoeuvre in any first-aid training course.

I learned it when I was working in a restaurant back east more than 35 years ago, but it wasn’t officially taught to me in any formal way.

The restaurant owners had placed a large graphic presentation, with step-by-step pictorials, of the Heimlich manoeuvre process in the preparation room for all staff to read.

No one really paid much attention to it, and I don’t recall ever actually reading through it myself, but the poster was so big and in place so long, I must have gone through it many times and absorbed the information subconsciously and learned it anyway.

That was apparent one night when a restaurant patron began choking, went blue in the face and started banging on the table with his fist before falling to the floor and rolling around.

Despite the fact that the man was pointing and clutching at his throat through his ordeal, his family and the other restaurant customers that had gathered around him assumed he was having a heart attack and were calling on someone (this was long before the age of cell phones) to immediately call an ambulance.

I knew immediately what the problem was, probably because the poster in the preparation room said the universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat, and pulled the man up from behind, wrapped my arms around him and performed the same procedure on him that I did to myself years later.

After five or six upward thrusts to his abdomen, the man coughed up a piece of steak the size of a garlic bulb that, I couldn’t help notice, didn’t have a single bite mark in it.

The man slowly recovered from the incident and I quickly brought him a glass of ice water to help clear his throat before he returned to his dinner party with an embarrassed look on his face.

(I might add here that the guy left me a $2.50 tip, which I thought was pretty cheap of him for probably saving his life. But I digress.)

So, after saving myself and the guy in the restaurant by using the Heimlich manoeuvre, I think it’s a good idea for as many as possible to know how to do it so there’s a better chance that someone with the knowledge will be in place in the event of an emergency where that knowledge is required.

I’d advise people to Google it and check out the pictures of the actions to be taken, but for those who don’t have a computer or don’t have time to look it up, I’ll give you the basics.

Stand behind the person, place one foot slightly in front of the other for balance, wrap your arms around the waist, and tip the person forward slightly; and if it’s a youngster, kneel down behind the child.

Then make a fist with one hand, position it slightly above the person’s navel, grasp the fist with the other hand and press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust as if trying to lift the person up.

Perform between six and 10 abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.

There you have it.

You may save a life someday.

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