January 14, 2017

The Heimlich Maneuver and Parkinson’s

Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, the thoracic surgeon best known for developing and popularizing his lifesaving anti-choking technique the "Heimlich maneuver," died last month at age 96.

I hadn’t thought about the Heimlich maneuver in years. But it might just save my life one day, since I'm now struggling with swallowing problems stemming from my Parkinson's disease (PD).

It seems like I've known about the Heimlich maneuver forever. But I wasn't sure any longer how it worked, and wanted to check if friends who might be around -- should I have a choking incident – knew how to perform the maneuver. 

Older friends were like me; they knew about it but weren't certain how to perform it. Younger friends had never heard of it.

So I’ll be sending this video to my nearest and dearest:

By the way, if you're alone and choking, here's what to do:

Importance of the Heimlich Maneuver to People with Parkinson's
Parkinsonians may notice changes or problems with chewing, eating and swallowing, and those issues tend to increase as PD progresses. Swallowing can become severely compromised. Food or liquid can get into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia, the leading cause of death for people with PD.

Heimlich’s Fascinating Life
Every week, The New York Times runs a piece titled "What We're Reading," in which the paper's editors post links to things they’ve recently read and enjoyed.

After Heimlich's death, one of those editors recommended a 2007 article about Heimlich that was published in The New Republic. The editor wrote: “Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. It is a riveting, illuminating story — with a twist near the end that is one for the ages."

I agree.​ Here's the link.

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