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Dr. Heimlich Said He Performed The Heimlich Maneuver For The First Time At 96 Years Old

The inventor of the maneuver said he used his own life-saving technique for the first time on a woman who was choking on her hamburger.

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Updated on

Dr. Henry Heimlich, the 96-year-old inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, said he used his own technique for the first time to save a woman who was choking on a piece of hamburger, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Heimlich, a resident of a senior living community in Ohio, said he was sitting next to 87-year-old Patty Ris during dinner on Monday when she began to choke on her hamburger.

According to Heimlich, he then performed his maneuver on her and dislodged the piece of meat stuck in her windpipe.

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While Heimlich — who invented the technique in the 1970s — had plenty of practice demonstrating the maneuver, he told the Enquirer that Monday was the first time he had ever performed it on someone who was actually choking.

Perry Gaines, the maître d' for the Deupree House dining room, said that Ris was having one of her favorite dishes, an open face hamburger, when she began choking.

"I felt like I was on stage," Gaines said in a recorded interview provided to BuzzFeed News. "Everyone stopped eating and everyone was looking at Dr. Heimlich and the maneuver that he was doing. It was totally quiet in the dining room at that time."

Gaines said that he had performed the maneuver himself, but Monday was the first time that "the person who originated it was doing it before my eyes."

"It was almost like history was being made."

This is not the first time he has claimed he's used the maneuver, though. In a 2003 interview with the BBC, Heimlich said he performed the maneuver for the first time in 2001 on a man who was choking at a restaurant.

"I was in this club restaurant eating when I heard someone calling Dr Heimlich," Heimlich told the BBC. "I turned around and saw a man choking so I did the Heimlich Maneuver and got it out and then went on and had my lunch."

In a recorded interview provided to BuzzFeed News, Heimlich described Monday's incident, saying, "She just started breathing. Her whole face changed."

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"It felt wonderful just having saved that girl," Heimlich said. "And now I knew it was working all over the world."

His son, Phil Heimlich, said in an interview that his father always joked around about enjoying performing the maneuver more on stars like Angie Dickinson or Johnny Carson when he first invented the technique.

"But he's never had to do it in real life and I think it's amazing this circumstance happened that he got to perform it," Phil Heimlich said, adding that his father stays in great shape by exercising and swimming.

"For any 96-year-old guy to even be able to get up, react, and perform a first aid measure is pretty impressive, but for the guy who invented it to actually do it is just incredible," he added.

"God put me in that seat right next to you so you could save my life," Ris wrote in a thank you note to Heimlich.

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This post had been updated to reflect that Heimlich said he has performed the maneuver in the past.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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