Inventor of Heimlich Maneuver dead at 96

Updated: Dec. 17, 2016 at 12:16 PM EST
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati native who invented the Heimlich Maneuver has died.

Dr. Henry Heimlich died Friday night at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, after complications from a massive heart attack suffered on Monday in his home at Deupree House, according to Episcopal Retirement Services.

Dr. Heimlich has been credited with developing the technique in 1974. The procedure is used to prevent suffocation when a person's airway becomes blocked by some object.

He didn't use the procedure to save a life until May of this year. That's when he noticed an 87-year-old woman choking at the Deupree House in Cincinnati. He was able to use his namesake "Heimlich maneuver" to dislodge a piece of hamburger from her airway.

FOX19's Tricia Macke interviewed Dr. Heimlich back in 2013. Watch the video here.

His family issued the following statement on Saturday:

We are saddened by the loss of our father, Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, who died on December 17, 2016 at the age of 96. 

Dad was a hero to many people around the world for a simple reason: He helped save untold numbers of lives through the innovation of common-sense procedures and devices. But he was not only a physician and medical inventor, he was also a humanitarian and a loving and devoted son, husband, father, and grandfather.

From the time Dad began his medical career in New York City, to the time he practiced as a thoracic surgeon in Cincinnati, he was committed to coming up with simple, effective ideas that helped save lives and significantly improved people's quality of life.

He grew up the son of a social worker in New York State, which deeply influenced his drive to help other people. He loved the ocean and served in the US Navy during World War II, volunteering for extra-hazardous duty, which led to him to working as a doctor behind enemy lines in the Gobi Desert of China. Later, he named his small sailboat, The Repose, after the hospital ship he spent time on after serving in China.

Most know of Dad's name for the Heimlich Maneuver, the method he devised to save people who are choking. The "maneuver," as he called it, not only has saved countless lives, it allows anyone, even children, to save the life of a choking victim. But as his memoir, Heimlich's Maneuvers explains, Dad accomplished much more.

As a young surgeon, Dad was the first American to devise and perform a total organ replacement. Later, he came up with a device that saved thousands of soldiers' lives during the Vietnam War. The Heimlich Chest Drain Valve is still used worldwide for patients undergoing chest surgery.

Dad was firm in his convictions and passionate for his causes. He didn't play politics well. Instead, he was single-minded in his quest to find better ways to save lives. Dad dreamed that anything was possible in the field of medicine, even when critics said otherwise.

The family requests that those who wish to honor our father's legacy make a contribution to Heimlich Heroes, a nonprofit organization that teaches children around the world how to save a life with the Heimlich Maneuver. 

Go here to about Heimlich Heroes or to make a donation.

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