The 96-Year-Old Creator Of The Heimlich Maneuver Just Used It For The First Time

Believe it or not, the creator of the lifesaving Heimlich maneuver had never actually used it on anyone in real life — that is, not until this week.

Dr. Henry Heimlich, who first conceived of the technique to help choking people in 1974, was able to actually perform the maneuver on fellow diner Patty Ris at Cincinnati’s Deupree House dining room.

It was entirely by chance that Ris and Heimlich were sitting at the same table that evening. As Ris explains in a video interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, she’s a fairly new resident at the senior living community at which Heimlich lives, and doesn’t have many friends yet. So she picked a table that was free.

“I ordered a hamburger, and the next thing I know, I couldn’t breathe, I was choking so hard. And that’s Dr. Heimlich next to me.” Ris, of course, doesn’t believe it was chance that led her to Dr. Heimlich’s table. In a thank-you note she wrote to the doctor for saving her life, she explained, “God put me in this seat next to you.”

Dr. Heimlich, who was able to dislodge the piece of meat with three thrusts, is just as glad he was given the opportunity to save Ris’ life. “When I used it, and she recovered quickly,” the 96-year-old Heimlich told the Enquirer, “it made me appreciate how wonderful it has been to be able to save all those lives.”

According to Dr. Heimlich’s son Phil, his father regularly meets with people the maneuver has saved. And he’s impressed with his father’s lifesaving feat. “Just the fact that a 96-year-old man could perform that is impressive,” he said. But Bryan Reynolds, a spokesperson for Episcopal Retirement Services, which owns the Deupree House, explains that, in spite of his age, Heimlich is still very active, swimming and exercising regularly.

Let Dr. Heimlich be an inspiration for us all to not let ourselves go in our old age. Because you never know when you’ll be called on to save someone’s life.