Yesterday, I was enjoying a delicious meal of Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with a nice crusty bread on the side when I accidentally inhaled a piece of the bread instead of chewing it as I was supposed to. I was doing something no one should do: I was talking while I popped the little morsel into my mouth. Almost instantly, I knew I was in trouble. I tried to breathe and could not catch a breath. My airway was completely blocked. I tried to cough and couldn't. All I could do was make this godawful sound while the person sitting across from me exclaimed, "You're choking? I wish I knew the Heimlich Maneuver!". She said I was turning a very deep shade of crimson. The waitress came by as I continued to gasp and here's where things get fuzzy. I felt myself getting incredibly dizzy and the next thing I knew the bread had been dislodged. I had been trying desperately to get some tea down to move the bread and I guess it worked. So I didn't die, although it certainly felt like I was going to be meeting my maker the way Mama Cass Elliott reportedly did. I guess the thing that freaked me out is that I could have died! I was choking, I was turning purple and I was dizzy. I think the next step would have been unconsciousness. Afterward, my throat felt raw and tender and I kept sipping tea to try to soothe it. It honestly had been one of those experiences where I saw my life flash before my eyes.
So I have made it my goal to make sure that no one else is in the position my friend was in - at least no one who reads this Blog, which means we gabby eaters are in big trouble! No one should see a person choking and just sit there and exclaim that they "wish" they could help! Not when Dr. Henry Heimlich came up with a simple technique to dislodge foreign items (such as bread crusts) from one's airway. Described as abdominal thrusts, here's how to perform this potentially life-saving technique:
1.) Pull the victim (of choking) to his or her feet and stand behind him/her with your feet about shoulder width apart to keep yourself steady
2.) Reach around and circle your hands around the person's abdomen
3.) Make a fist with your dominant hand (meaning if you are right-handed, you use your right hand) with the thumb facing toward (and into) the person's stomach
4.) Place this "fist" above the person's belly button and under their breastbone, wrapping your other hand around the fist.
5.) Pull inward and upward with quick thrusts, making a motion similar to the letter "J" - in, then up. Repeat until the object is expelled. (Note: if the person loses consciousness, stop the Maneuver and call 911).
Now, please understand. I am not by any means being critical of my friend or of anyone who may have witnessed what was happening, hoping I would dislodge the item on my own. If you don't know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver, you can do more harm than good to the person. And back slapping really does nothing to move an object out of one's airway once it has found its way in there. I would have sadly tried that and - well - prayed! Often when an object like a crusty piece of bread is inhaled instead of swallowed, it does "work its way out" eventually, as mine apparently did. (I am pretty sure the tea helped!). But if we can help, by all means, we should. You never know. You may actually save a life.
FYI, the Mama's & The Papa's "I Saw Her Again" just started playing on my Pandora station. Coincidence? I think not! O.K. So Mama Cass didn't really die by choking on a ham sandwich as rumors suggested, but it makes a good story, doesn't it?
Be safe, eat healthy, exercise, and - please - be ready, willing and able to help someone if the situation arises where you could potentially save a life.