It's a life-saver.
No doubt about it, University of Oregon football player Mark Asper is a hero, and not just for his Rose Bowl exploits on the Ducks' offensive line.
Asper, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 325 pounds, put his size to good use during the annual pre-Rose Bowl ritual known as the Beef Bowl at Lawry's The Prime Rib restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 28.
During the meal, Asper noticed a man at a nearby table clutching at his throat, obviously choking, while his son tried to dislodge the offending morsel from his airway.
Asper walked over, told the son - UO student Tom Diamond - that he could handle the situation because he'd been an Eagle Scout.
A couple of abdominal thrusts later, and the dad, Los Angeles resident Paul Diamond, was breathing freely again.
Notice, the term "Heimlich maneuver," has not been used here, even though that's what Asper would call what he'd just done.
It turns out that for at least five years, the Heimlich maneuver has been just the second part of the method the American Red Cross, and some other lifesaving organizations, want us all to use in trying to save each other from choking to death.
It also turns out that maybe the maneuver should have never been called the Heimlich in the first place, because there are those - including his own son, Peter Heimlich - who contend that Dr. Henry Heimlich took credit where it wasn't due when it came to laying claim to the procedure.
Why the new-and-improved procedure hasn't been more widely publicized, Peter Heimlich - who e-mailed Register-Guard sports reporter Adam Jude the same day of his Dec. 29 story on Asper's heroics - doesn't know.
"Based on my experience, very few people, including medical professionals, are aware of the 2006 American Red Cross update," Peter Heimlich, who lives in Atlanta, said in a subsequent e-mail message last week. "This was a major change in U.S. first-aid guidelines, but the Red Cross didn't issue a press release so that the media could inform the public. I've asked Red Cross officials why they chose not to issue a press release, but I can't get a straight answer."
Whatever the reason, here's what the American Red Cross recommends now, if you're called upon to aid someone who's choking:
First of all, coughing means there's still oxygen in the airway and the person should be encouraged to continue coughing as forcefully as possible in order to try to dislodge the object naturally. But if the choking victim can't cough, speak or breathe - but is conscious - follow these steps:
Tell someone to call 911, then ask the victim or a companion, "Are you choking?" and if you may help.
Lean the person forward, then give five sharp blows to the back, between the shoulder blades, with the heel of your hand.
If that doesn't dislodge what's stuck, place the thumb side of your fist against the middle of the abdomen, just above the navel; grab that fist with the other hand and give five quick, hard but separate abdominal thrusts inward and upward toward the stomach.
Alternate between the two until the object is forced out and the person breathes or coughs without assistance.
In the case of a baby younger than 1 year old, abdominal thrusts are not effective.
Instead, first position the child face down with head lower than chest and administer five gentle "thumps" with the heel of the hand.
If that doesn't work, turn the child face up but with the head lower than the chest and the back and neck firmly supported; place two fingers at the center of the baby's breastbone and give five quick chest compressions.
The long-used Heimlich maneuver includes the abdominal thrusts but rejects the use of back blows, saying that they can lodge the obstruction more tightly into the windpipe. But critics of the more limited Heimlich maneuver say scientific analysis doesn't support that contention. The Mayo Clinic also supports the "five-and-five" approach, using back slaps followed by abdominal thrusts, as recommended by the American Red Cross.
However, the American Heart Association still teaches only abdominal thrusts.
Henry Heimlich for years has recommended his method also for treating drowning and asthma victims, but many medical experts, including the Advisory Council on First Aid and Safety, have concluded that in the case of drowning, "subdiaphragmatic abdominal thrusts should not be given."