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"Heimlich's Latest Maneuvers" by Mary Mihaly, Health Monitor, Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010

"Heimlich's Latest Maneuvers" by Mary Mihaly, Health Monitor, Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010

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Heimlich's Latest Maneuvers
He’s a legendary healer. His lifesaving “hug,” the Heimlich maneuver, has savedthousands—if not millions—of lives.
Health Monitor 
caught up with Dr. Henry Heimlichand his wife, Jane, over breakfast at a restaurant near their home in Cincinnati. Dr. “Hank” Heimlich may be the most famous doctor in the world, but in this diner, he’s just the tall,lanky fellow who comes in almost every week for eggs and grits. At age 89, his voice is whisperybut forceful as the conversation moves from politics to food to summer getaways in Wisconsin.Jane, a noted alternative-medicine author, prompts him with anecdotes about their travels andfriends. Inevitably, talk turns to his “latest maneuver”—his upcoming autobiography,
Heimlich’s Maneuvers 
,to be published shortly by Bartleby Press. Among other highlights, the book recounts how, in 1953,Dr. Heimlich launched his career by creating a surgical procedure for replacing the esophagus—andhad his first major clash with authority by taking full credit for his work instead of stepping aside andallowing his department head to take the bows. It’s a practice referred to by young researchers as“scientific slavery,” and Dr. Heimlich says he wasn’t about to let someone else get famous for hisscientific breakthrough. Even the Heimlich maneuver raises controversy. For nearly two decades, Dr. Heimlich has wantedthe American Red Cross to adopt the maneuver as the first treatment for drowning victims insteadof cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The Red Cross refuses, insisting that most drowningincidents are “dry” drownings—that is, without water in the lungs—and that rescuers should performCPR first before trying the “abdominal thrust,” as they refer to the Heimlich maneuver. “That’s the way it’s always been with me,” Dr. Heimlich says, smiling. “A problem, then a solution,then a long fight to get the solution accepted. But you can’t distinguish yourself by sticking with thepack—by playing it safe. Step away and take risks,” he says. “That’s how you buildself-confidence.” 
A cultural icon
Later that morning, Dr. Heimlich sits in his home office, surrounded by awards and gifts fromdignitaries. Above his desk hangs a drawing by Dayton, Ohio, cartoonist Mike Peters of a youngman in a movie theater, trying to sneak his arm around a woman. The caption reads, “YoungHeimlich’s First Maneuver.” On one shelf sits the American Public Health Association’s Albert Lasker Award for inventing themaneuver, the lifesaving “hug” he created in 1974, using a choking dog. (“The dog lived,” he is quickto point out.) On another shelf is a photo of Dr. Heimlich with the late newscaster Tim Russert,framed with a note reading, “It was a pleasure to meet you, thank you for saving so many lives.”The note is dated May 12, 2008, just a month before Russert died from a massive heart attack. Dr. Heimlich has known scores of celebrities over the years. More than a few have been saved bythe Heimlich maneuver, including President Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Woody Allen, andCher. He keeps up with maneuver rescues through “Google Alert.” Roughly a dozen reports cometo him every week. On this day, he learns of a man who was choking at a steak house in Texasand a schoolboy choking on a cracker in Massachusetts—both saved by the maneuver. Cookbookauthor Joan Nathan choked at dinner during President Obama’s Inauguration Weekend; a chefsaved her with the maneuver and it was reported in the
New York Times 
. “I took the opportunity towrite a letter to the editor,” Dr. Heimlich says, “warning readers never to slap a choking person onthe back—that could push the object deeper into the throat.” The maneuver isn’t Dr. Heimlich’s only invention, though he jokes that it may be the only one thathasn’t earned him any money. Much of his income is from other gadgets he’s patented, such as theHeimlich Micro-Trach, a device inserted into the trachea that allows oxygen-dependent patients to
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