Entrepreneur invents life-saving Heimlich-alternative device after 7-year-old girl choked

(Video screenshots)

According to the American Hospital Association, the Heimlich maneuver only works in 70 to 80 percent of cases. What happens when it doesn’t work? The choking victim usually dies …

That, in fact, is exactly what happened to one 7-year-old girl.

Speaking Sunday morning on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” New York entrepreneur Arthur Lih, a father of his own 7-year-old, recounted the horrifying moment that he learned that the other 7-year-old had died after the Heimlich maneuver had failed to clear the obstruction in her throat.

“I was visiting a buddy of mine. His mom was in the hospital. I was just being a friend and keeping him busy. And he pointed across the room at a gurney and said, ‘The last time that I was here, there was a 7-year-old that passed away on that gurney,'” Lih recalled.

“And he told me about the pain, the parents, the crying. My daughter was seven. I emotionally felt that moment. I could see it, and I said, ‘What about the Heimlich?’ And he said, ‘Well, it didn’t work.’ When she was born, I took the course, so I thought it was fine. When I heard it didn’t work, I said I’m not going to let my child die in my arms. I’m going to figure out a way that, if it doesn’t work, I can save her.”

And that’s exactly what he did.


Lih wound up inventing a device, the LifeVac, that serves as a Heimlich alternative. Not only can it be used in cases where the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t work, but it’s also useful for cases where nobody around knows how to perform or simply can’t perform the Heimlich maneuver.

The device is also useful for people who are alone. Imagine choking while eating dinner alone at home. What would you do? Run outside and bang on a neighbor’s door? The options are limited.

So how exactly does this device work? As gross as this may sound, it works just like a plunger, in that it uses suction to propel whatever’s stuck in the victim’s throat out of his or her mouth.

“It’s got a one-way valve,” Lih said as he pointed at a LifeVac in his hand. “When you push it down, the air exits the side. … It creates a suction. That’s 300 millimeters of Mercury. You should pull it out every time and save your life. It’s that simple — place, pull and pull.”

Watch a demonstration below:

Lih’s website, LifeVac.com, shows that the device costs about $70. While the price may seem expensive, the website notes that “[o]ne child dies every 5 days from choking” and that more people die from choking “than die in fires, drowning or accidental shootings.”

Among those who’ve died because the Heimlich maneuver had failed to work is Camynn Bruegmann, who choked to death after a rubber ball got stuck inside his throat three years ago.

“I immediately flipped him over and went like this,” Camynn’s mother, Courtney Bruegmann, said to Milwaukee station WITI while making a patting motion. “Nothing.”

“Flipped him over on his back, put him on my stomach tried to get it out. Pattin’ him on the back — that wouldn’t do nothing,” Camynn’s father, Matt Bruegmann added.

Sadly, the local emergency rescue service was equally unsuccessful in dislodging the ball. As a result, Camynn, who was only nine months old at the time, wound up dying.

“He was too long without air,” Courtney said. “I looked at him one more time and I could see that he just wasn’t there.”

“I never want anybody else to go through it,” Matt added.

Learn more in the WITI video below:

Shortly after Camynn’s death, his parents discovered LifeVac.

“If I would’ve just had one of these, maybe he would be here,” Courtney said. The couple wound up buying multiple LifeVacs and donating them to the local rescue squad.

“I had no previous knowledge of it,” Fennimore Rescue Squad chief Nathan Flynn said, adding that in times past, there were many instances in which his team had “run out of options.

Not anymore, hopefully.

“This is a last resort before CPR. There’s some time between when a person stops breathing because of a lodged object to the point where they no longer have a pulse. Once they no longer have a pulse, then we have to stop and just do straight CPR,” he said of the new tools at his disposal.


Lih concluded it by offering some advice to other would-be-inventors who want to change the world for the better.

“Well this is the simplest way I can do it. On my 54th birthday, I received a letter from IKEA that we saved a 3-year-old child. On my 54th birthday, the best birthday present I ever got.”

“If you have the perseverance and the courage to go down an entrepreneurial path, your wildest dreams could come true, so I guess I would say, it takes courage and perseverance, but you don’t even know where it’ll lead you. It led to me to saving lives all over the world.”

He added that his device has saved lives in Greece, Spain, Australia, America.

When asked how he gets the word out, he cited parents like Courtney and Matt.

“Mostly parents. That’s who we see most. My passion is schools and special needs, but mostly parents like myself.”



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