Last night I started choking on a piece of Kielbasa. My son sat on the floor next to me going “Dad, what are you doing?” as I proceeded to choke and see stars and fall to my knees.
Of course I did the exact *wrong* thing, and put my fingers into my throat and attempted to dislodge the damn thing. I was successful, but only because it was actually a double piece that was connected by a length of skin. So I managed wedge my fingers next to it, hook the skin and pull it back out.
Now I know I’m not supposed to do that, and I even once knew about how to perform a Heimlich on myself..
Problem is, when you’re choking, all that goes out the f’ing window.
The Heimlich maneuver is one of the few methods by which a potentially life-threatening choking incident may be resolved, and its method should be learned by anyone who is in a position to potentially offer help to minors, seniors, or other individuals at potential choking risk.
However, when one is alone, the chance of successfully performing the procedure is dramatically decreased, because to perform the Heimlich upon one’s self is generally awkward, especially when one may be suffering the preliminary or advanced effects of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.
One must, before conducting the procedure, be sure that it is absolutely necessary. While the signs of life-threatening choking may be somewhat ambiguous in others, one generally knows whether or not his or her airway is obstructed, but all the same some clarifications must be made.
Partial airway blockage is not cause for the Heimlich maneuver. If you can breathe at all, speak at all, or cough, you are not a candidate for the Heimlich maneuver. Coughing is a far more effective way of removing partial blockage of the trachea, and it will clear successfully virtually all such blockages. If one cannot cough because one cannot draw air, then the Heimlich maneuver may be necessary.
There are two ways to perform the Heimlich maneuver on one’s self. The first method is much like those conducted on others.
* Place your balled fists together, about two inches above the navel, but below the breastbone. Thrust forcefully upward and into your abdomen. Repeat until the blockage is cleared. This may be difficult, as the angle at which one must place one’s arms in order to achieve this compression can be hard to reach, especially with the force required to dislodge a tracheal blockage.
* If it is not cleared, one may alternatively lean over a chair or similar prop to attempt compression. Place yourself over a chest-high chair, and, if possible, force yourself upon it quickly and forcefully in an attempt to force out the blockage. This may, depending upon your strength and stature, be more or less effective than the traditional fisted method.
Many people find it difficult to perform the Heimlich maneuver upon ones self for much the same reason that it is difficult to slap, cut, or otherwise hurt one’s self–the natural instinct against the self-infliction of pain. However, one must do what is possible to ensure that the necessary force is used, because consciousness will quickly fail in conditions of hypoxia, as with tracheal blockage. To fall unconscious in a room alone with a blocked air passage is, needless to say, unlikely to be resolved with a positive outcome.
Proper instruction in CPR technique and official certification may allow you further practice with the Heimlich maneuver as it is practiced both upon one’s self and upon others. Seek out health and safety programs in your community for more information on certification and training courses designed to instruct the community in safety technique.