Introducing…The Gravity Technique™
Years ago, I had an incident at work in which I began to choke on a piece of hard candy. My immediate reaction was my brain telling me the best way to handle the situation. The message was clear: stay calm and use gravity and force to expel the object from my throat. I knew that if I could get more air into my lungs through my nose first, without further lodging the object, I would have a greater chance of expelling the object. In addition, I knew if I didn’t get the object out on the first try, I could be in serious trouble.
I stayed calm. I bent at the waist to get my head and neck lower than my lungs. Before trying to expel the object, I slowly breathed in through my nose in an attempt to get more air into my lungs to increase the chance of expelling the object. I realized that the blockage must not be very far down because I was getting air into my lungs. Then, with all my might, I used my core muscles and blew as hard as possible out of my mouth to expel the air from my lungs, in the hope that the piece of candy would become dislodged. It worked, and the piece of candy flew out of my mouth with more force than I anticipated, much like a cork being forced out of a collapsible bottle.
Years later, I began teaching CPR and First Aid classes and noticed the focus on the Heimlich maneuver, which has saved countless lives. However, this technique typically uses another person to perform the maneuver. The advice usually given for people who are alone and choking is to “throw yourself over the back of a chair” to try to mimic the Heimlich maneuver.
In my experience in health and wellness work, I have observed situations in which animals sometimes seem to make better choices than humans make. The common denominator in those instances was that animals tend to follow their immediate gut instinct, whereas humans can overthink situations or panic and not respond in a logical way. In an emergency, the difference between a logical and instinctive response and an emotional panicked response can mean the difference between life and death.
Picture a cat that is trying to get something out of its throat. The animal automatically puts its head down toward the floor and focuses totally on tensing its entire core and pushing the air out of its lungs to expel the object. The cat is responding instinctively. The instinct to use gravity to help your efforts may be an effective technique for people to use when faced with a choking situation and no one around to help you. Think of the experience I had, and recall how effectively The Gravity Technique™ worked for me—it probably saved my life.
Using The Gravity Technique™ may be helpful if someone is alone and choking. The likelihood of expelling the object from a person’s throat would increase if he got down on his hands and knees and positioned his throat lower than his lungs. This position allows gravity to help, instead of hinder, the situation.
An additional benefit of this technique is that if a choking victim becomes unconscious, he is already close to the floor, thereby reducing the chance of becoming injured, which often happens when a choking person is standing at the time he become unconscious. One of the biggest concerns of unconsciousness is the head injury that can subsequently occur from the fall.
I developed The Gravity Technique™ in honor of my brother, who tragically died at the age of eleven months from choking on a balloon.
I can take no responsibility for anyone who uses this technique. But I can share that in my situation, I followed my gut instinct and it worked. I share it in the hope that it may help others.
Other actions that may help before or during an emergency
- When calling Emergency Services (or 911), make sure the address number is clearly visible on the outside of your house or building. If your house or building is not visible from the road, having the number on your mailbox at the end of the driveway can save critical time.
- If you’re alone and are having an emergency, try to get to a landline phone and dial 911 so help is on the way. Sometimes using a landline, as opposed to your cell phone, can increase the ability of emergency crews to see your exact location immediately. Even if you can’t speak, the dispatcher will likely see your location and send help. Your cell phone may also work if the GPS feature is on and accurate.
- If you are able to unlock or open an entrance door, your chance of getting help quickly increases. If you’re alone and choking and are able, dialing 911 and then getting outside where people may be able to see and help you may also increase your chance of survival.
- Have all your personal information readily available for emergency and hospital personnel. I created a medical emergency form, which can be update as needed. I keep a copy on my refrigerator in a “911” magnetic sleeve and a copy in my purse. You can also give copies to your emergency contacts.
My Emergency Medical Form contains the following information:
- Phone number
- Date of Birth
- Medical Conditions
- Allergies and Drug Sensitivities
- Special Instructions (wear glasses or contact lenses? Have pets at home that need someone assigned to take care of them?)
- Medication table (with meds listed down the left column; and dosage, frequency, reason and prescribing physician listed across horizontally)
- Emergency contacts (names, relationship, addresses and phone numbers)
- Physicians (names, addresses and phone numbers)
- Information regarding durable power of attorney, if applicable
- Date form was last updated
In an emergency, it is much easier to hand the form to emergency personnel than it is to try to remember all the information or try to retrieve it from several sources. This time is much better spent focusing on the emergency at hand. Depending on the emergency, you may not even have the opportunity to obtain the information if it’s not immediately available.
CLICK HERE to download your FREE copy of the Emergency Medical Form.
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