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What Was the Story Behind Dr. Henry Heimlich’s Long Battle with the Red Cross?

Dr. Henry Heimlich was an  American thoracic surgeon and medical researcher, well-known for the Heimlich Maneuver. Though the discovery of this method was beneficial, it was difficult to promote in the medical community back in the day.  Today,  the Heimlich Maneuver is the go-to technique when someone is choking.  But shockingly, many people were opposed to this technique during his time. But did you know he also went against the Red Cross?

Red Cross refused to accept the Heimlich Maneuver due to the lack of evidence and information provided by Dr. Henry Heimlich. This sprouted a battle between Dr. Heimlich and the organization that lasted for 20 years.

Who is Dr. Henry Heimlich?

Dr. Henry Juda Heimlich is a well-renowned American thoracic surgeon and medical researcher of German descent. He  is best  known for developing the  Heimlich Maneuver alongside many other accomplishments such as; The invention of a portable oxygen system for ambulatory patients, also known as the “Micro Tach,” and lastly, the Flutter Valves or more commonly known as the “Heimlich Chest Drain Valve” (Source: Taylor & Francis Online)

What is the Heimlich Maneuver?

The Heimlich Maneuver is a technique where the fist of the responder is positioned right above the patient’s navel to do a successful and effective abdominal thrust. This technique is highly promoted because the maneuver compresses the lungs, which puts pressure on the objects stuck in the trachea, which may expel it in the process. (Source: NHS)

Why was the Heimlich Maneuver Previously Disapproved by the Red Cross?

The very moment that the Journal of American Medical Association published the Heimlich Maneuver, Red Cross immediately showed dissent towards the new founded technique claiming that “There are not enough evidence or studies” for them to fully believe that this maneuver would be the wiser alternate choice for the ‘Five Back Slap’ technique.

I have known from the time I began conducting my research on the Heimlich Maneuver that back slaps are ineffective in expelling an object from the windpipe of a choking victim.

Dr. Henry Heimlich

Back slaps are proven to be potentially dangerous- rather than dislodging the blockage and expelling it, it may cause it to go deeper and make it even more challenging to remove the material.  After studies backing up his hypothesis about the dangerous effects of back slaps, the Red Cross finally accepted their loss after several years of arguing.

The Heimlich Maneuver is the prime technique to be used in choking victims and drowning victims while also admitting that the back slap technique can eventually do more harm than good. (Source: Med Fraud)

Do We Still Use the Heimlich Maneuver Today?

The Heimlich technique is still being used to this day. However, a slight modification has been made. It is called the “5 and 5”. It was a technique developed because the Heimlich Maneuver can cause injury, much like the back slap technique. The 5 and 5 maneuver uses both the Heimlich Maneuver and Back Slap Technique, where five back blows are followed by five arm thrusts that eliminate enough risks and make it safer than doing just one of the techniques mentioned. (Source: Health Shorts)

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