Cher, Ronald Regan Owe Their Lives To Anti-Choking Maneuver By Heimlich

By Christie Abagon , Dec 18, 2016 05:51 PM EST

Dr. Henry Heimlich, the man who has become a household name for devising a treatment for choking, died Saturday due to a heart attack.  He was 96-years old.

Heimlich's 'Bear-Hug' Maneuver Saved A Lot Of Lives, Including Celebrities

Heimlich was a surgeon from Cincinnati who invented the "bear-hug" maneuver to help choking victims.  This treatment saved a lot of people, including famous ones. 

Cher gagged on a vitamin pill during a broadway rehearsal in 1982.  She tried to dislodge the pill with a piece of bread, but that didn't work.  Thankfully, the director of the show, Robert Altman, saved her by doing the Heimlich. 

Ronald Reagan was saved from choking on a peanut by longtime aide Michael Deaver.  The future president was aboard a plane when the incident happened in 1976. 

If there are celebrity victims, there are also celebrity heroes. Justin Timberlake saved a friend who started choking on a mouthful of peanuts in 2004, while Clint Eastwood used the Heimlich technique on AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-AM tournament director, Steve John, who was choking on a piece of cheese.

Dr Heimlich And His Unorthodox Medical Ideas

Dr Heimlich's technique first appeared in a medical journal, American Medical Association, in 1974, with the original term "subdiaphragmatic pressure".  Editors of the journal called him and said that they are naming the technique after him because "so many lives have been saved in less than two months".

But some of his works were sadly criticized.  The doctor called himself a medical David fighting an establishment Goliath when confronting skeptics.  "It's the pattern," he told The Washington Post in 1989. "First, they say it won't work, then when it proves to work, they say it's nothing new. Most people cannot accept some guy coming in who's not totally involved in the politics of the field, coming up with an idea that they haven't figured out in 50 years."

Dr Heimlich died at the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He wrote a memoir in 2014 titled "Heimlich's Maneuvers: My Seventy Years Of Lifesaving Innovation".

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