Dr. Henry Heimlich, 96, Uses His Own Maneuver for the First Time on Choking Person

May 27, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

Dr. Henry Heimlich, 96, used the Heimlich maneuver he invented to help a choking person on May 23. It was the first time in his life.

Heimlich lives at the Deupree House senior living facility in Cincinnati. During lunch, a lady sitting next to him, Patty Ris, 87, started to choke on her hamburger.

Heimlich stepped behind her and performed his famous technique to dislodge the piece of food from her airway.

Though he demonstrated the maneuver countless times since he invented it in the 1970s, he has never performed it on a person who was actually choking, he said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. 

Ris said Heimlich saved her life.

“I couldn’t breath at all for a long time,” she said. “God put me in that seat right next to you, Dr. Heimlich, so you could save my life.”

It was an exceptional moment for Heimlich too.

“When I used it, and she recovered quickly…it made me appreciate how wonderful it has been to be able to save all those lives,” he said.

It was also remarkable Heimlich was able to perform the technique at his age.

“Just the fact that a 96-year-old man could perform that, is impressive,” said his son Phil Heimlich.

Heimlich swims and exercises regularly.

His maneuver saved more than 50,000 people since its inception, including President Ronald Reagan, former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, Carrie Fisher, and Jack Lemmon, according to the Heimlich Institute, an organization founded by Heimlich.

How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver

Stand behind the choking person (who needs to be standing upright).

Put your hands around his or her waist, and tip the person slightly forward

Form a fist with one hand and place the thumb side of the fist just above the choking person’s bellybutton and below rib cage.

Grasp the fist with the other hand and press hard into the upper abdomen with an upward thrust, as if trying to lift the person up.

Repeat until the stuck object comes out.

Source: Mayo Clinic, The Heimlich Institute

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