Dr. Henry Heimlich – the man who invented the anti-choking maneuver that bears his name – died December 17 as the result of a heart attack in Cincinnati, Ohio at the age of 96.
Earlier this year the 96-year-old retired surgeon used the method that bears his name to save a fellow resident at his Cincinnati retirement home.
Heimlich created the method of dislodging items caught in the windpipe in 1974. He estimates that over the past 40-plus years the maneuver that made the name Heimlich a household name has saved thousands of lives. A thoracic surgeon at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, he spent two years developing the technique.
While best known for his anti-choking method, Heimlich had other inventions, too, including a chest drain valve to prevent a lung from collapsing and a new method for treating the eyelid infection trachoma. He was also the first American to perform the reversed gastric tube operation – replacing a damaged esophagus with a tube crafted from the patient’s own stomach, and a portable delivery system for oxygen called the MicroTrach. Heimlich founded the Dysphagia Foundation to help patients who had had a stroke learn how to swallow again.
The Heimlich Institute was created to “celebrate creativity in medical innovation” and to find “simple solutions to complex medical problems.”
Henry Jay Heimlich was born February 3, 1920, in Wilmington, Delaware. After graduating from the Cornell University Medical School and serving his internship in Boston, Heimlich served with the United States Navy Reserve in Asia.
His accomplishments and awards include over 100 scientific papers published and 250 medical lectures delivered, the American Society of Abdominal Surgeons Distinguished Service Award, the Albert Lasker Award, the American Academy of Achievement Award and induction into the Engineering and Science and the Safety and Health Halls of Fame.
Predeceased by his wife Jane, Heimlich is survived by his four children.
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