I recently hosted a dinner party at my house, when all of a sudden my friend Robin clutched at her throat and began to gasp for air.
My husband loudly proclaimed that “Robin’s choking!” Robin’s husband emphatically instructed her to “drink some water!”
My panic-stricken friend with her mouth wide open, goggle-eyed me helplessly. There was zero chance that water was going anywhere down that throat. Robin indubitably required the Heimlich maneuver.
I wasn’t sure how to do it, and I pathetically looked to my husband for guidance. As he jumped up from the table to come over to Robin, I was praying that he knew how to administer the abdominal thrust and could save her—without breaking any ribs.
In the meantime, Robin’s husband frantically asked no one in particular if he should hit her on the back, and I anxiously responded that I didn’t think it was a good idea.
Bottom line was that the three of us were trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do about the situation, while my BFF was choking to death.
Even though I had glanced at the posters in countless restaurants, and seen the Heimlich maneuver dramatized on television, I had absolutely no clue what to do beyond squeezing around the stomach area.
It seemed interminably longer than the few seconds it took for Robin to dislodge the piece of steak from her air passage on her own.
Several minutes after Robin recovered from her terrifying experience, she looked at me teary eyed and said “It didn’t seem like the three of you were going to do anything to help me, so I was just about to throw myself against your kitchen island.”
We had all been total Heimlich failures.
In order to break the tension, I nervously prattled on about the time a few years ago, that I attempted a semi Heimlich maneuver—on myself.
I was at a power lunch in Manhattan with several luminary magazine editors and publishers, when I choked on a rather large piece of radicchio. For those of you who are not familiar with radicchio, it is very crunchy and fairly immovable.
It was eminently clear to me that in order to protect my glam reputation, I was going to have to dislodge the leafy vegetable from my constricted throat on my own. ASAP.
I casually but quickly removed myself from the table and ran past the bar and the bartender. Stupid move. I bolted into the ladies room and locked the door. Another stupid move.
I then proceeded to hurl my body about the room, the wall, the stall door, and anything else I could bounce off of. I finally reached in with my hand and grabbed that sucker, throwing it onto the bathroom floor.
As I slumped against the paper towel dispenser, there was frantic banging on the bathroom door. Apparently the bartender had heard the commotion and was concerned. Duh.
I was able to collect and wipe myself off, and returned to my table of VIP’s like nothing had happened.
By the time I finished telling Robin my Radicchio Story, she was cracking up and almost back to herself. Albeit very shook up.
Of course, after my guests left, I did my usual online research, and it turns out that hitting Robin on the back wasn’t entirely incorrect.
The Red Cross actually recommends a “five-and-five” approach to delivering first aid:
First, deliver five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
Second, perform five abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver).
Alternate between 5 blows and 5 thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.
For a complete first aid breakdown, and instructions on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, go to the Mayo Clinic choking section.