I Witnessed the Heimlich Maneuver

Nathan Boddy
3 min readFeb 17, 2020

I’ll Never Swallow the Same Again…

Under no circumstances do you want to be remembered like this: having your abdomen plunged from behind by a friend or good Samaritan. I’m sure the urgency of the moment overshadows humiliation, but If someone’s got to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on you… you’re not going to live that shit down.

It looked like the woman administering the Heimlich was grappling with a life-sized doll… a Resusci Annie doll for instance. Except that this Annie doll was a dude. Resusci Andy, let’s say. His hair was longish, sandy brown and hung lazily from a perfect 1970’s part down the midline of his scalp (except when being violently jostled by the inward and upward thrusts of the heroine). You’d think that his hands would be up at his throat in the ‘universal sign of chocking’, but instead hung at his sides as if in defeat.

We’d been enjoying the lunch buffet at Sher e’ Punjab Indian Restaurant on Grant Avenue in Tucson, Arizona: glass top tables, mounds of hot naan and at least four main dishes to choose from at all times. Honestly, I’m sure Andy was no more excited about his next plate of Saag Paneer than I was! Even with a mental image of Andy getting throttled, I’d still go back to dip some of that delicious bread into their sweet brown tamarind chutney! And that chicken, how can it be so delightfully red?

Upon our surrender and a last sip of crystalline water jingling with ice, we left the restaurant in tightened pants and waddled to our car… oven-esque in the Arizona sun. We had just begun pulling out of the parking lot by passing in front of the Sher e’ Punjab entrance when we saw the events unfold. Andy, whom I recognized from inside, was now out front and things did not look alright! He apparently hadn’t quite finished his meal!

I slowed the car as we peered in horror through the windshield. My wife is a physician, and we all waited with baited breath to see the outcome. Would my wife have to rush to the scene once Andy dropped completely to the sidewalk? Thrust one. Oh god… is this is really happening? Thrust two. Are you sure they’re not just playing a game? Why are his arms straight down at his sides!? Is he about to go down? Thrust three and… ejection.

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

I’ll admit that I was surprised as the food was ‘released’. My understanding is that the heirs to Heimlich’s reputation have asked that the maneuver be called simply, ‘Abdominal Thrust.’ I can’t blame them for wanting some distance, and the term ‘Abdominal Thrust’ does simultaneously give instruction. Nonetheless, Heimlich had it figured out! Andy didn’t just sputter, spit and recover. No way. The offending mouthful soared in a spiraling array of orange curry and spittle past Andy’s mouth and far onto the sidewalk. Andy staggered a bit, his arms now a bit more animated.

I’m going out on a limb to say, I bet the same thing has never happened to Andy since. I wonder if the staff at Sher-e-Punjab, upon seeing his hasty retreat to the sidewalk, gave him a discount on his meal? (I’m guessing he didn’t pay before beating it to the door. Maybe he even knocked over a glass top table?) I’m betting that the woman he’d been dining with (his heroine) has reminded him of the incident a time or two. If it had been my wife, I’d never again be able to comment enthusiastically about a meal without hearing, “just chew it this time.” Personally, I’m glad that I’m saddled with the image of Andy at Sher-e-Punjab. Although it haunts me, especially at the critical moment when my mouth considers the food to be ready for the drop, I know for a certainty that I don’t want to be that guy.

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