I was at a philosophy conference in Portland a few years ago, and just outside of a session room a woman speaking with a few colleagues started choking on her cough drop. A couple of people tried to give her the Heimlich Maneuver, but they were too short to get any leverage: she was tall, and no one thought in that moment that she could kneel down so they could achieve the correct angle. So they stood around a bit helplessly, watching her panic rise.
“Does anyone know the Heimlich?!?” someone shouted down the hall. Their group was at one end, then there was me coming out of a door, and another group down at the other end of the hall. I thought to myself, ” I think I know the Heimlich. I took that course when i was 16.” I also saw that I was the closest person to her, and was tall enough to get the leverage I would need. So…
…I totally did the Heimlich Maneuver. I expected the cough drop to shoot out of her mouth and shatter against the wall, but nothing happened at first. Then she tapped my arm and managed a weak “It’s out” before spitting it delicately into her hand.
I didn’t know what to do at that point. I kind of didn’t want anyone to look at me. So I said “You’ll be okay” and then I found the nearest stairwell and hurried down to the lobby.
And like a flash, he was gone.
I went outside to calm down a little, and saw that the Emergency Responders had been called out. I told them where the woman was, and that her airway was clear, and then I watched them rush into the building.
I remained outside and wished I still smoked.