TAKING ACTION: Do you know how to perform the Heimlich?

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - This week, a Wisconsin teen is being called a hero after performing the Heimlich maneuver on a friend.

Ian Brown saved his friend, Will Olsen, who was choking on food at lunch.

"I can't say 'thank you' enough for what he did," said Olsen.

But could you do the same for a friend or loved one in need of help when seconds count?

"It's absolutely essential to get help very quickly," said William Hall, HEMSI Training Officer. He said a blockage of the upper airway by a foreign object can quickly lead to bigger problems. "You may have a respiratory arrest," he said, "which leads very quickly into cardiac arrest."

That's why he recommends to everyone old enough to do it safely to learn techniques to use in times of trouble.

"Most of the time, in severe medical emergencies the person is either in their home or in public. The public being trained to do first aid and CPR is essential in allowing time for first responders to arrive," he explained.

Hall explained the best technique for the Heimlich maneuver, a quick and effective way to assist a person whose airway is completely blocked:

  • Stand behind the choking person
  • Place your arms around their torso
  • Make a fist with one hand
  • Wrap your other hand over your fist
  • Pull your hands toward yourself, pushing into their upper abdomen with force
  • Continue until blockage is dislodged or the person becomes unresponsive due to lack of oxygen

"What you're doing is trying to put force against the diaphragm, changing the inter-thoracic pressures enough to actually dislodge the object," he said.

"Make sure that emergency responders are on the way with help and equipment," added Hall. "And then take action. Don't be afraid to take action to help your family and friends."

He added, "It's very difficult to mess this up, and what most people don't understand is it's far more likely that you're doing good, than you're doing bad. Your best efforts are what you're there for."

Hall said schools may teach CPR or First Aid Training. HEMSI does also.

Click this link for more helpful Heimlich tips.