Can You Do The Heimlich?

I know you all know I am not talking about a dance, but that is what it sounds like a little.

But I am asking a serious question–how many of us know, really know, how to do the life-saving Heimlich maneuver?

Have you had training?

Have you ever done it, if not on a person, on a practice dummy?

Have you ever, god forbid, ever had to use that knowledge, or had that knowledge used upon yourself?

I am asking, because Zak sent me this NY Times Op-Ed piece about how few restaurant professionals know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver, and it made me think.

I was certified in it, back when I was certified in CPR, when I was a Girl Scout, but my certification has lapsed long ago. (Duh–I am a bit old to be a Girl Scout these days!) And while I watched a video the night before we took Kat home from the NICU on the subject of infant and toddler Heimlich and CPR, I don’t know that I would be able to perform it on a kid without practice, much less on an adult.

Which leads me to say I am going to be calling the Red Cross to see if they do training courses here in Heimlich and CPR both for adults and kids. It is just something that I think parents, food professionals, and hell–everyone–should know.

Now that I think on it, maybe I should call up Johnson & Wales, my old culinary school, and see if they currently include the Heimlich in their curriculum (they didn’t when I was there), and if not, see if I can convince them to do so.

I know how crucial CPR can be–back when I was a Girl Scout, my Mom and I actually had to use our CPR skills on a street person who had a heart attack in Charleston, West Virginia. Other folks passed him by, but we stopped and the EMTs who came after the guy at the paint store–my Sunday school teacher–called, said we made a difference.

So–these things are important–for everyone.

So, I ask again, how many of us know these life-saving techniques?


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  1. Know them, although I too was certified more than 25 years ago when I was a Girl Scout.

    Have used them – both the CPR, when an older woman collapsed in church, and the Heimlich, on a friend at a bbq. Have also had the Heimlich done on me, and didn’t mind the bruised ribs, not one bit.

    The hubby and I should probably get recertified, as we are in the food profession, and do lots of street fairs.

    Comment by Kymster — February 4, 2009 #

  2. My certification lapsed about 5 years ago, but I’m pretty sure I could still do it if necessary.

    On a somewhat related tangent, I recently saw the movie “Choke”. You may enjoy it, though it’s a bit raunchy. (The main character is a sex addict!) It prominently focuses on choking and the Heimlich, as well as the mother/child relationship. I thought it was amazing!

    Comment by starrrie — February 4, 2009 #

  3. As part of the certification process, you need to learn the legal protections and restrictions of having the cert and of performing the techniques.

    See, there’s a really stupid and short-sighted legal issue: if you try to save someone’s life and don’t succeed perfectly, you could be liable for damages.

    Moronic, isn’t it?

    So when you get your training, make you ask about whethere you’re legally required to assist (for example, EMTs are required to help anyone in distress) and what your legal protections are if you do. Sensible states have Good Samaritan laws which protect people who try to help. Some protect anyone, some protect only people who are certified in the technique they apply. Ideally, get the actual Code reference, to make sure your instructor has it right and it hasn’t changed recently. (The instructor, of course, should be up on recent changes but there’s nothing like checking for yourself.)

    And if your jurisdiction doesn’t have a Good Samaritan law, write a letter to your local rep demanding one.

    Comment by Harry — February 5, 2009 #

  4. Regardless of having been certified in the past – everyone needs to retake the class as the rules for how to do CPR for adults has changed in the past year or so. One method is compression only. The rate of compression is easiest done to the rhythm and beat of the disco song “Stay Alive”. There are different rules for children under the age of 8.

    Comment by Maureen — February 5, 2009 #

  5. Alson S. Inaba, MD is a pediatric emergency physician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu. According to a story printed in JEMS Magazine, Dr. Inaba identified a way to keep perfect time while doing CPR on a victim of cardiac arrest.

    As it turns out, the Bee Gees’ classic Stayin’ Alive has a beat that’s almost exactly 100 beats per minute – the same rate the American Heart Association recommends for chest compressions during CPR.

    The University of Illinois medical school studied the effect the song had on keeping time during CPR. Five weeks after practicing CPR with the song playing on an iPod, doctors at the medical school were able to hum along without the music and keep time just a little bit faster than 100 per minute, which is perfectly fine when we’re talking about chest compressions.

    Stayin’ alive,
    Stayin’ alive,
    (this part is exactly 100 beats per minute)
    Stayin’ a-li-ive
    This tip helps rescuers keep the proper rate while doing CPR. Going too slow doesn’t generate enough blood flow, and going too fast doesn’t allow the heart to fill properly between compressions. Humming along with the Bee Gees is one way to stay on track.

    For those of you less optimistic folks, Queen’s classic, Another One Bites the Dust, also has the proper beat.

    Comment by Maureen — February 5, 2009 #

  6. I’ve been trained, but I suspect that most medical students have to be. We tend to focus on CPR, but the Heimlich was in there.

    I remember that as a pre-teen, I was certified during a babysitting course, along with CPR and other safety procedures.

    Tangentially, there’s some very interesting research about CPR that suggests the 30-breath-30 method is not really as good as a 200-breath-200 method, as it turns out that keeping blood pumping to the brain is far more important than breathing air into the lungs (and when you compress the chest correctly, you create a passive vacuum for oxygen anyway). So some of the Emergency crews here have made the switch.

    Comment by Alexis E — February 5, 2009 #

  7. Working as a waiter in college one night a guest started choking. Another waiter rushed over and pulled off a beautiful Heimlich. The now able to speak guest began yelling at that waiter. We just figured he was embarrassed by it all and lashed out.

    Regardless, the managers and coworkers all knew the waiter had saved the guys life.

    Comment by Tracy Snell — February 8, 2009 #

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