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Surviving Heimlich

When someone has a close call with death, it takes some time to process the emotions. This is the first time that I have sat down to write to you, dear Diary, that I am not sure how to begin, or even whether I should begin.


It was two days ago when I had a most frightening experience. Faced with a day’s worth of my own pills to ingest, I brilliantly started popping in two or three at a time to down with the perfect pill companion, my Diet Coke. (I am one of those D.C. drinkers who refuse to accept everything that has been published about how bad D.C. is for me. An addict is an addict!)

Perhaps I was in a rush, or my mind was elsewhere, but at least one of my pills, probably a vitamin D 1000, went into my larynx and blocked my airways. I began choking, and it became worse and worse. I really could not breath. I felt my throat closing up and I knew it was serious. I was able to think clearly enough to breathe through my nose, but the constriction continued and I was truly frightened. Hubby watched me and told me to “Stop doing that!!” as if his command would make it so. If only it had. I made my way into the kitchen where Violet was working; pointed to my throat and she realized I was in trouble. She pounded my back and I coughed out the pill which had been blocking my breathing. I was shaking as if I had been in shock, but slowly returned to normal. It is still deeply distressing to consider what might have happened, if I had not had someone other than Hubby available to help me. He was unable to understand how serious my situation was, even though I was in crisis.

I might not have written about this, had it not repeated again today. This time it was not me, but Hubby who was choking. We were eating lunch, and he began to cough. This happens frequently to him. There are medical reasons why some people with forms of dementia choke on their food. It matters not why, but his choking became identical to mine – clearly life threatening. Both Violet and I were with him. I began hitting his back as Violet had done to mine. He was turning white and she was scared. Her experience working in hospitals told her that his lips were changing color and he was in danger! I kept thinking I had to stop him from dying! I was behind him and announced “The Heimlich Maneuver!” I put my arms around him and hugged his rib cage from the rear as I had seen in a video somewhere, and kept hugging tightly. He spat up the blockage and slowly began to calm down. He had been terrified, as I had been. For good reason!

Hubby’s reaction was very different than my own. He screamed at me that I was a crazy person to hit someone on the back in a situation like that and what the hell did I think I was doing, putting pressure on his back and around to his chest when he could not breathe! From that fury he went on to blame the food I had served him. Bottom line: His choking was all my fault. I was not expecting the verbal assault. In a kind of shock-of-my-own, I retreated to my computer game and did a “slow burn.” Violet tried to explain to Hubby that I had actually saved his life, but he would have “none of it!”

At that point I realized it was time for the pill which calms Hubby, and asked Violet to give it to him, even if he refused the other three that were scheduled for after lunch. She got him to take it. If I had given it to him, he would have thrown it across the room in a fury.

Hubby sat in his chair, recuperating. He asked me for various items to assist him. I asked Violet to take care of him. I had had enough for one day. These experiences get harder and harder to absorb as each day I apparently am getting older and older!

I realize now, that I never properly thanked Violet for saving my life the other day. She will read this chapter and understand my gratitude. I fully expect Hubby to continue to blame me until he finally falls asleep. It is his favorite pastime.

The only good news, in addition to both of us having survived is that tomorrow Hubby will not remember today and we will begin anew.


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Barbara Diamond is a journalist living in Jerusalem, Israel. She has been a political activist on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people for over fifty years, having participated in political and humanitarian missions to Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, China, and Europe to meet with world leaders on matters of concern. She has written over 100 articles for the Jerusalem Post and on her blog at The Times of Israel, hosted an English radio talk show in Jerusalem and continues mentoring others to pass on the torch of responsibility. You can reach her at and visit her site at