History of Dr Henry Heimlich
Award Night for Dr. Henry Heimlich
More than 150 people gathered Nov. 3 at Manor House in Mason to honor Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, the innovative thoracic surgeon who devised and developed six medical breakthroughs during his 60-year medical career.
Heimlich, 92, has focused his efforts for the past 40 years on developing simple, creative solutions to treat complex healthcare issues through the Heimlich Institute located at the Deaconess health campus in Clifton.
Heimlich received a "Ripple Effect" Lifetime Achievement Award from Deaconess Associations, Inc. for his far-reaching impact on the world of medicine.
We all seek value as human beings, but being of good use to others, repairing bodies and saving lives has to be the highest calling of all, said Patrick Ward, executive director of the Deaconess Associations Foundation. The medical devices, surgeries and procedures Dr. Heimlich developed, including the Heimlich maneuver-- which saves people from choking to death-- have transformed the lives of millions of men, women and children in every corner of the world.
The evening benefitted two Deaconess initiatives, the Heimlich Heroes program, a middle school curriculum that teaches children the Heimlich maneuver and Independent Transportation NetworkGreaterCincinnati (ITNGC). The ITNGC is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week driving service for seniors over 60 years old and visually-impaired adults. Volunteers provide their own cars to transport members throughout the I-275 loop in greater Cincinnati.
While serving as a freshly-minted U.S. Navy surgeon in China during World War II, Heimlich came up with an innovative treatment for victims of trachoma by mixing sulfadiazine into a base of shaving cream. At the time, trachoma, an incurable infection of the eyelids, was causing blindness in Asia and the Middle East.
His naval group was protected by a 250-man Chinese guerilla army while in Japanese-controlled territory in Mongolia, and it was there that a Chinese soldier was shot in the chest and died in Heimlichs arms. He was deeply affected by the experience and never forgot it.
That experience helped inspire him in1962, when Heimlich invented the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve, which prevents lungs from collapsing after chest trauma following surgery or on the battlefield.
During the Vietnam War, the device saved untold numbers of lives. In just one instance, 34 men were shot in the chest on Vietnams Hill 881, and thirty-two got off the Hill alive. For the first time in history, a soldier shot in the chest in combat, with only his buddies to help him on the battlefield, had a good chance of survival.
Today, every year and all over the world, some 130,000 or so of the inexpensive, little valves save the lives of civilians as well as military personnel from dying of severe chest trauma. The valve is stocked in ambulances and still used in some operating rooms today.
In the 1950s, Heimlich worked to replace a damaged esophagus using a flap from the stomach, a procedure dubbed a hot medical discovery by Life Magazine. It is still used today to replace birth defects of the esophagus.
In 1969, Heimlich became director of surgery at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati. Reading the newspaper a daily habit -- he noticed occasional articles that focused on people who died within a matter of minutes because food caught in their throats suddenly blocked their breathing; He read one day that choking on food was number six of the top ten causes of death in the United States, causing 4,000 deaths annually.
Heimlich began thinking of a solution to the choking problem. He was aware that a hard slap on the back meant to aid a choking victim lodges an obstruction more tightly into the airway, causing death.
As a chest surgeon, Heimlich was also aware of the reserve volume of air that stays in the lungs after exhalation. He reasoned that this reserve could be used to help expel an object. He tested his ideas on laboratory dogs, closing off the upper end of an endotracheal tube and putting it down the throat of an anesthetized beagle; when he compressed the air in the dog's chest, the tube was forced out of the dog's airway. Heimlich found the best results were obtained by a sub-diaphragmatic- pressure, pushing up suddenly on the soft tissue under the diaphragm.
In 1974, Heimlich published his study in Emergency Medicine. He also brought the article to the attention of the press, and references to it began to appear in newspapers nationwide. A week later, the Seattle Times reported that a 70-year-old restaurateur had saved the life of his neighbor's wife using Heimlich's technique. Many similar stories followed, including cases of children successfully performing the maneuver, and Heimlich was thrust into the national limelight. Heimlich also defined the symptoms of choking--inability to speak or breathe, pallor followed by bluish skin color, and finally, loss of consciousness and collapse. He has publicized the fact that choking is often mistaken for a heart attack-- the so-called café coronary.
Since 1974, tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people have been saved from choking deaths by using the Heimlich maneuver. Today, weekly Google Alerts document from 10 to 20 cases worldwide where adults and even young children save saves through using the Heimlich maneuver. The Heimlich maneuver has become a part of popular culture; a character named Heimlich was featured in the movie A Bugs Life and Disneyworld in Los Angeles operates a popular childrens ride called Heimlichs Chew Chew train.
Heimlichs other notable contributions to medical science include invention of the MicroTrach in 1980, a portable oxygen system that delivers air directly to a patients lungs though a tube inserted in the throat. That same year, he published the book Dr. Heimlichs Home Guide to Emergency Situations. Also in 1980, his Dr. Henry Heimlichs Emergency Lessons for People, a series produced for children, won an Emmy Award.
In 1984, Dr. Heimlich was recognized with the prestigious Albert Lasker Public Service Award. He is a member of the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame (1985), the Safety and Health Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the American Academy of Achievement Award.
Heimlich is married to Jane Murray Heimlich, daughter of ballroom dance legends Arthur and Kathryn Murray, and an author in her own right. The couple has four children.