Heimlich Heroes Blog


Jan 20, 2020

Drum major, Navy man, chest surgeon, innovator - Celebrating the Life of Dr. Henry Heimlich

Henry Judah Heimlich was born on February 3, 1920. One hundred years later, his name is still associated with a number of critical medical inventions and benefits.

Of course, the Heimlich Maneuver® comes to mind as one of those benefits – we see “the Heimlich” depicted in movies and tv shows, or as a reference when our sports team comes up short. It's a brand, similar to asking for Kleenex when we need a tissue. Whenever we think of helping someone who is choking, we think, “Quick, the Heimlich Maneuver!” And while the Heimlich Maneuver might be the aid that most people would know, Dr. Heimlich had several medical inventions still used today. They include the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve and the Heimlich MicroTrach.

I had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with Dr. Heimlich in the few years before he passed away in December 2016. His eyes were bright, and he listened attentively as we discussed Heimlich Heroes™. How it continued evolving and how widespread the program had become in a few short years. He laughed aloud when I told him of our new training doll – a “boy” named "Hank". (I didn’t know at the time that the doctor’s friends called him Hank.)

I also had the opportunity to interview Doctor Heimlich for a couple of our newsletters in 2015. The interviews say much about his personality, inspirations, and influences.

His life story is fascinating. You might check out his autobiography, Heimlich’s Maneuvers: My Seventy Years of Lifesaving Innovation.

Another book to consider is aimed towards kids. By Mister Lemur, it's called, It Will Take a Lot of Force to Give the Heimlich to a Horse. The book is designed to help readers become aware of the importance of learning first aid and to make readers laugh. However, there's also a teaching section that describes the Heimlich Maneuver and what makes it work. 

Today, Heimlich Heroes had trained well over 200,000 kids and adults since 2013. We can certainly hope that more and more schools, and afterschool groups for youth will take advantage of our free training.  

Doctor Heimlich tells us in his autobiography, “What makes the Heimlich Maneuver particularly special is this: while most of my other ideas were put into use by medical professionals, the Maneuver is accessible to everyone. Because of its simplicity – and the fact that it works when performed correctly – just about anyone can save a life… You see, you don’t have to be a doctor to save a life. You just have to have knowledge and the instincts to respond in a crisis.”

Our Thanks to You

On this 100th occasion of Doctor Henry Judah Heimlich’s birth, we say thank you. Thank you for all you have done to forward medicine and medical innovation and for all the lives you’ve helped save.

Dr. Heimlich honored in 1995 for Lifetime Achievement by the Rotary and the
Cincinnati Reds - two of his favorite organizations.

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