I saved someone's life. You can too.

by Roz Warren
Posted 7/7/22

At the age of 67, I just did something I’d never done before. I used the Heimlich Maneuver on somebody.

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I saved someone's life. You can too.


At the age of 67, I just did something I’d never done before. I used the Heimlich Maneuver on somebody.

I was at a birthday celebration for my favorite one-year-old. The kids had spent the first hour of the party at play, and now a big happy group of children and their parents were enjoying a feast of bagels, cream cheese, lox and watermelon.

I was sitting at a table with a toddler, a baby and a four-year-old ,  supervising their lunch and enjoying their company. The only other adult at the table was Tracy, formerly the four-year-old’s pre-school teacher and now a family friend.

Tracy and I are both good with kids and, given a choice, will hang with the toddlers instead of the adults. She was sitting with the baby and the toddler, and I, across the table, was sitting with the four-year-old. She and I were schmoozing and enjoying our bagels when suddenly Tracy started to make choking sounds and wave her hands frantically.

Five years ago, I’d attended a lifesaving course that the library where I worked had offered. I’d forgotten all about that course, but when Tracy started choking, what I’d learned half a decade ago kicked right in.

“Can you breathe?” I asked her.

She frantically shook her head no.

(If the person can breathe, or if the person can cough or speak, keep watch but do not try any physical maneuvers.)

I jumped up and zipped around the table to where she was sitting.

“Can you breathe?” I asked again.

She shook her head no, looking agonized.

So I did what they’d told me to do at the training. I got behind her, put my arms around her, locked my hands together in a fist, and pulled up sharply under her rib cage.

Just like that, the piece of bagel she’d been choking on popped out. And she was breathing again.

To be honest, I’d expected I’d have to try several times before it actually worked. Or that I’d try and fail, and then have to jump up and start shouting about what was happening to see if anyone at the party had any real training in saving lives.

But no. The Heimlich Maneuver worked like a charm - the first time. 

Tracy looked at me, shaken. “You saved my life,” she said. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” I said. “I’m actually surprised that it worked.”

“I’m glad it did,” she said. “I thought I was going to die. I was waiting to see my life pass before my eyes.”

The only other people who had noticed that something unusual had just happened were the children at the table with us, who were now looking at us curiously as Tracy grabbed a napkin and cleaned up the very small mess she’d made coughing up the bagel.

“Teacher Tracy threw up,” the four-year-old observed.

It felt a little odd that something so momentous had just happened, and nobody else was aware of it. But I’m a retired librarian, and Tracy is a preschool teacher. We’ve both learned to take things in stride. It had happened. It turned out OK. There was no reason to spoil the party by making it about anything other than a much-loved baby turning one.

I hadn’t been sure about whether to attend that CPR course. I’ve always been a bit of a klutz and assumed that if I ever actually tried to actually use the Heimlich Maneuver, I’d probably get it wrong. But I’m so glad I did. Five years later, what they taught me kicked right in. 

As it turns out, it’s surprisingly easy to save a life. If you’ve ever thought about learning how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver yourself, I’m here to encourage you to go right ahead. 

For more information about learning how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver yourself, visit redcross.org.