In southern California, a 94-year-old woman was having dinner with her family who was visiting from out of town. It was Easter, and a huge feast was in the making. On the table were fried and baked chicken, medium rare steak, candied yams, greens, mashed potatoes, corn and a host of desserts. The round dining room table had eight chairs neatly positioned. The senior woman sat between her husband and her daughter. She was smiley, talkative and loved the food. Many years ago, the dentist removed all of her teeth.Thus, she had dentures to help her chew. Unfortunately, she found it difficult to chew the food because her dentures were loose and kept moving around as she chewed. But the loose dentures didn’t stop her from eating the food. The food was so good that she took her dentures out and continued to eat. She cut a piece of steak and proceeded to chew it (or gum it); then she tried to swallow it. The meat lodged passed her uvula, but she couldn’t clear it out. It took a few moments for her family to recognize that she was choking. When they finally noticed her hands around her neck (the universal choking sign), they took action to help her. Her adult son stood behind her and stood her up. He positioned his fist hands above her umbilicus and below her xiphoid process (the terminating end of the lower sternum). He thrusther abdomen in and upwards and repeated this maneuver to dislodge the food. But to no avail, it didn’t come out. In fact, it went down deeper. The senior women’s daughter called 911.
Before paramedics arrived, the crew of a fire engine walked through the front door of the home. The crew consisted of 3 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). One was the fire captain. The Captain took swift action by relieving the son in performing the Heimlich maneuver. He was very aggressive as he attempted to expel the meat from the lady’s throat, and it didn’t work. The lady eventually collapsed into unconsciousness, and at that moment, the paramedics walked in the door. Her skin was blue,and she was drooling profusely. The paramedic took out his forceps and laryngoscope and looked inside her mouth. He had to look deep, and there is where he saw the meat. It was lodged very deep in her throat. After removing the meat, he ventilated her and applied oxygen. She regained consciousness in less than a minute.
In this case of the senior women who loved meat and had to remove her dentures to enjoy it, knowing the Heimlichmaneuver, although it didn’t expel the obstruction, was successful. The bottom line is that something’s done, instead of nothing. The maneuver does work and knowing how to do it is extremely valuable. However, the most important part was to call 911. Note the following suggested procedure to help a choking victim:
Make sure it is safe to approach the choking victim. There are circumstances that may require you to stay away from the victim who is choking. Simply make sure that it is safe to help that person.
Ask the person if they are choking. The universal sign is when adults place their hands around their neck. For babies, you simply notice that their skin color is different, red, and blue or some other color and that he or she is not breathing.
For the adult, ask if you can help them, but before you do, have someone call 911 and get an AED.
The victim may be sitting or standing. If so, position yourself behind them and place your closed fist above the umbilicus (belly button) and below the xiphoid process which is the prominence at the bottom part of your chest bone. Give quick in and upwards thrust into the abdomen and keep doing it until the object in their mouth comes out, or they go unconscious. If the victim is a women and pregnant, position your fist on the center of the chest and thrust inward. If they go unconscious, start CPR (even if you cannot get air to flow through the lungs). Chest compressions take precedence over nothing. Once paramedics arrive, you can stop and back off.
For a child, the procedure is the same way. For an infant, apply five back blows and five chest thrust. Check the mouth to see if the object is visible, and if so, remove it and breathe for the baby every 3-5 seconds until help arrives or until he or she wakes up. It is best to take a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) course which includes choking to get a better understanding of the procedure and to ask questions to a qualified instructor.
Choking is an emergency, and the victim could clear it simply by coughing. One of the most important procedures to do is to activate the emergency system. If the object comes out before the paramedics arrive, you can always call the dispatcher back and tell them to cancel. On the other hand, if anyone has received chest or abdominal thrust, he or she should seek the care of a doctor to ensure that no internal injuries have occurred.
Remember to stay calm, be cool, and don’t panic. A smooth operator will bring comfort and reassurance to the victim and the people who are standing around watching.