BY JOHN PARKS TROWBRIDGE, MD Cincinnati
Help me I’m choking! These are words you won’t hear,because choking
victims can’t talk: they are suffering with a sudden blockage of the airway.
And they will die within minutes without help. Thanks to the tireless efforts
of Henry J. Heimlich, MD, hundreds of thousands of people around the
world are alive today and telling their frightful stories of facing death in
just a few hundred heart beats.
Dr. Heimlich is certainly not alone in his contributions to improving health.
His wife, Jane, has long been recognized as a pioneering author and
columnist. What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You: the Complete Guide to the
latest in Alternative Medicine (HarperCollins, 1990), was the first major
compendium and has been called a real treasure chest full of medicine’s
best kept secrets by Canada’s Health Action Network Society. Many area
residents will recall her weekly health column, Helping Yourself, which
appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer in the early 1980s. In the early 1990s,
Jane Heimlich was associate editor of the most widely read newsletter, Dr.
Julian Whitaker’s Health & Healing.
The Heimlich Maneuver sometimes described as the abdominal thrust was
developed by Dr. Heimlich in the late 1970’s. Specifically intended to help
people choking on food or other objects suddenly lodged in the throat or
airway, this technique has also been found to be invaluable in rescuing
drowning victims. I hadn’t really thought about it, Heimlich says in his
humble way, but water entering the lungs is just as effective as anything else
in blocking the breathing process. I received a letter from someone who had
used the Heimlich maneuver to save a drowning victim and immediately
realized how many more people might be saved. Mouth-to-mouth breathing
can’t force air into the lungs when the airway tubes are filled with water.
Lifeguards who have been trained in performing the Heimlich abdominal
thrust immediately upon reaching a drowning victim have enjoyed a stunning
success rate an overwhelming percentage of people will begin to breathe again
on their own before they reach the shore or the side of the pool.
Dr. Heimlich, a thoracic surgeon at Deaconess Hospital, is no stranger
to saving lives on a grand scale. Observing in World War II that chest
wounds were uniformly deadly,he realized that a simple flutter valve tube
could allow the lung to re-expand and heal. The Heimlich Chest Drain
Valve saved tens of thousands of lives during the Vietnam War. Over a
hundred thousand valves are used each year, saving the lives of those injured
in highway and other accidents.
Ever inquisitive, Dr. Heimlich proposed a novel way to treat HIV-positive
patients in the early 1990s: give them a dose of malaria to stimulate the
immune system. We used to do this with advanced cases of syphilis before
antibiotics became widely available I thought that this might be a natural
treatment for this devastating illness when I realized that fewer people suffer
with HIV in areas of Africa where malaria has been poorly controlled,
explains Dr. Heimlich. Unfortunately, American hospitals had little interest in
pursuing this research project that had been approved by an institutional
review board. Initial studies were conducted in China, with very encouraging
results announced in 1995, but funding for more extensive research has been
difficult to obtain.
The list of their accomplishments would fill many pages, notes L. Terry
Chappell, MD of Bluffton, Ohio, and president of the International College
of Integrative Medicine. Our physician members were proud to meet in the
city they call home and to take this opportunity to offer our appreciation for
their lifelong contributions to better health. A gala celebration was held on
Saturday evening at our Northern Kentucky meeting forJane and Henry
Heimlich, where many of their professional friends and colleagues joined
them once again to formally recognize their contributions.
ICIM invites everyone to contact the Heimlich Institute in Cincinnati for
posters and other educational materials to help train both children and
adults in the Heimlich Maneuver: 513-559-2100 or on the web at
The Institute places emphasis on using the creative portion of our
minds. In medicine and life. Each person creates within the limits
of his or her Knowledge and capability. With this creativity comes
challenge, frustration and controversy. Dr. Heimlich's favorite
phrase is: “If all of your peers understand what you have done, you
are not creative, but when ideas are proven successful, in spite of
attempts to interfere, inevitably truth prevails, and the joys and
rewards of one's work are insurmountable."
-from The Heimlich Institute’s home page