Millions of lives saved because of 1 man

Published 1:45 am Saturday, April 8, 2017

Dr. Henry J. Heimlich died in December 2016. He lived until age 96. The thoracic surgeon will always be remembered for the anti-choking technique that bears his name.

Though familiar with the Heimlich Maneuver, I knew little about the man until his death, when I read interesting facts about his life. His medical career spanned 70 years. As a new surgeon, he served during World War II, accepting extra-hazardous duty with the US Naval Group in China.

In the 1967, Dr. Heimlich invented the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve, “which prevents the lungs from collapsing after chest trauma due to injury or surgery.” It helped military doctors save the lives of soldiers during the Vietnam War. “More than four million Heimlich Chest Drain Valves have been sold since that time,” according to the doctor’s biography.

Then, in the early 1970s, he learned that nearly 4,000 Americans died each year from choking on food or small objects. In 1974, Dr. Heimlich developed a “method that allowed air trapped in the lungs to be used to expel the object from the victim’s airway.” One news article described this simple method of saving a choking victim by “wrapping arms around the victim from behind, making a fist just above the victim’s navel, and thrusting up sharply” to remove the throat obstruction.

The Heimlich Maneuver is credited with saving an estimated 100,000 lives. Among those who experienced this life-saving method, some are well-known such as Ronald Reagan, former New York City mayor Edward Koch, actress Elizabeth Taylor, and sportscaster Dick Vitale.

More than 2000 years ago, another Man, whose life spanned only 33 years, made it possible for every one of us to live forever in heaven. God knew that every human being has a heart condition caused by sin. The Bible tells us “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

We needed a method for saving us from our sin. So God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave. It takes a simple child-like faith to believe His words and ask Him to forgive our sins. How?

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

Bible teacher Oswald Chambers once said, “The heart of salvation is the Cross of Christ. The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much. The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened.”

Millions of lives have been saved down through the centuries, and many more will be saved today and until the end of time. As a old song says, “It is no secret what God can do. What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.”


– Jan White is an award-winning columnist. She can be reached at