A week ago a dear friend came up to me, made no sound, but mouthed the words, “I can’t breathe.” I immediately realized she was choking and started doing the Heimlich Maneuver. As I squeezed her lower chest from behind like I thought I had seen demonstrated and had practiced some time ago, I groped around for the right spot to pull my fist up on. You are supposed to start on the sternum (above the navel but below the rib cage) and pull up. But I couldn’t find it right away.

I was pretty tense, don’t think I was scared, but remembered that my Uncle Louis had choked to death at his dinner table, when a morsel of food became stuck. I guess it clogged his windpipe. My friend had swallowed one tiny sip of water, I learned later, and it had gone into her windpipe and created a vacuum. I pounded her back many times intermittently as well.

After what seemed like a few minutes, she began coughing and was able to take in some air. We had broken the vacuum. Once she could talk, she said, “You saved my life.” I really wasn’t thinking about that when I was squeezing her chest. I’m not even sure I was aware that her life was in danger. Life and death seemed unconnected to my goal of getting her to breathe some how, anyhow, any way.

Three days after the choking episode, she went to the hospital for an examination and x-rays, and was told that no ribs were cracked, and her heart seemed to be ok. Ten days later, her chest is still sore from all the squeezing.

Life is such a crap shoot, so fragile. A man friend of mine had a stroke, but his girl friend was there to call 911. His brain was deprived of oxygen, and years later has still lost some of its memory functionality. But he is alive. Just like my female friend. Imagine the horror for both these people if no one had been nearby. They would have died.

Here is a link to a description of the Heimlich Maneuver. And here is another link to a discussion about helping a person who is choking. I suggest you learn how to do it correctly and then pray you never have to apply it. Many of the videos and references I looked at said NOT to slap the choking person on the back. The second link encourages back pounding with the heel of your hand. The doctor I spoke with also said one should do the Heimlich a couple of times (4-5 squeezes each time) and then pound the back a number of times.