It was a lazy, relaxing, summer day. Not a cloud in the sky. The parents, grandparents, and children had gathered at poolside. Grandma and Grandpa were grilling the steaks, the burgers, and hot dogs. The sides were corn on the cob, potato salad, and baked beans.
The conversation was engaging, the sharing was vigorous, the reminiscing was brisk, and there was lots of laughing. Everyone was having fun. There was plenty of giggling, cutting up, and horseplay. And when dinner was over, a few including the kids continued to graze off the table.
Suddenly the four year old, the most rambunctious who moments before was still devouring pieces of hot dog and pickles, stood still and stared. His mouth slowly dropped open and his tousled head began to slowly bob, as if nodding, but he was trying to swallow. The father first noticed his strange look and, almost simultaneously, so did the grandfather. They realized the tiny guy couldn't breathe.
The father, sitting on the patio step, grabbed him and shook him. No results. The child then became more limp. More shaking. Nothing. The father placed the child over his knee and administered several sharp blows to the back. Nothing. The child was turning grayish. The grandfather then grabbed him and did the same thing -- with no results. Then he stood the child upright and administered the Heimlich maneuver, with several sharp blows, and up came the chunk of wiener, which he spit out.
This Grandpa was me.
While I've administered the Heimlich maneuver in public once to a stranger I can testify personally that when you do it to a loved one the fright of the one executing the Heimlich is almost on par with the one choking. It's certainly a different feeling. Just seconds before the wiener was dislodged, the thought of 'what if this doesn't work?' came to mind. The words "Call 911" were on my lips.
Executing the Heimlich maneuver is not that uncommon in public. You hear stories about someone doing it from time to time. It's not difficult. You, in fact, could be THE one present to save the life of someone you love.
In fact, you may even be present to save the life of a celebrity. The following celebrities have been saved by the Heimlich maneuver: Cher. Former President Ronald Reagan. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Elizabeth Taylor. Goldie Hawn. Walter Matthau. Carrie Fisher. Dick Vitale. News anchor John Chancellor. Jack Lemmon.
Carrie Fisher and Dan Aykroyd were on a blind date once (arranged by John Belushi). Apparently Carrie was half passed out. In hopes of getting her to come down Aykroyd forced her to eat. Instead of giving her Doritos he forced fed her Brussels sprouts. She choked on one. He did the Heimlich maneuver. And then promptly proposed marriage.
Former President Ronald Reagan, on a plane that had just taken off, threw a peanut into his mouth which lodged in his throat. Mike Deaver, his aide and whom the president had recently taught the Heimlich maneuver, ran to his rescue, did it, and out popped the peanut bouncing off the bulkhead.
John Chancellor, the former NBC news anchor, once choked, sending a chunk of Gouda cheese down the wrong pipe. Tom Brokaw happened to be present, and said Chancellor turned red, then very gray. He did the Heimlich and out popped the cheese. Chancellor was able to go on air a few hours later as planned.
But sometimes the Heimlich maneuver fails. If a person goes without oxygen for 4 minutes the chance of brain death is high even if they are revived. What is one to do?
Whenever we dine out I try to remember to carry with me an empty plastic chamber of a ball point pen. In case someone choked and the Heimlich maneuver failed it's available to use in Plan B. I've never had to use it before.
The Plan B to a failed Heimlich maneuver involves staying calm and laying the choking victim on the floor. With a steak knife, or pocket knife, or any sharp knife, make a horizontal incision just below the Adam's apple in the depression between the Adam's apple and the next bulge below. (You're felling it now -- that's the spot). Don't worry about blood or anything else. The main focus is to get an opening into the windpipe. Anything and everything else can be taken care of by the EMTs or hospital staff later. No one is going to fault you about your technique. It's hard to argue against someone trying to save another's life. Just do it. Make the cut. Then keep the hole open with a straw, empty pen chamber, or similar object, or with your finger if necessary. It can save the life of an adult or child.
IN children under 4 it's advisable that they not be fed hot dogs, nuts, chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes, hard candy, popcorn, or similar foods. Marbles, beads, coins, and latex balloons should be off limits for them too.
Now, when my grandkids come over, we try to stay away from hot dogs. If we do eat them I make sure they cut them up in pretty small pieces. We also try to avoid laughing out loud too much while eating but then again, most times, that's an exercise in futility. So I pay close attention -- always aware of the location of the nearest knife.