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Mrs. Miller Is Choking!

Dinnertime at Springvale Care Facility gives the residents a chance to socialize. Tonight, Mrs. Miller is eating dinner with her friends Mrs. Bryant and Mr. Herman. The meal is chicken, rice, salad, and mixed fruit. Mrs. Miller takes a bite of her chicken. Suddenly, she looks surprised. Her airway is partially blocked, so she is having trouble breathing. She crosses her hands and holds them up near her throat to show that she is choking. This is the universal sign for choking. Her friends call out loudly to the nursing assistant nearby. “Tanya! Mrs. Miller is choking!”

Tanya rushes over to help Mrs. Miller. “Mrs. Miller, it’s Tanya. Are you choking?” she asks. Mrs. Miller nods, still trying to breathe. Tanya says, “I’m going to give you back blows to try and get the chicken out, okay?” Tanya gives Mrs. Miller five back blows with the heel of her hand in order to help her expel the chicken from her throat.

Mrs. Miller is still choking. Tanya needs to act fast before Mrs. Miller cannot breathe and falls unconscious. Tanya wraps her arms around Mrs. Miller’s waist. She holds her fists together and thrusts, or pushes upward into Mrs. Miller’s abdomen. This action is often called the Heimlich maneuver. Tanya gives five thrusts, and then Mrs. Miller coughs and the piece of chicken comes out onto the table. Mrs. Miller can breathe again!

“Thank you, Tanya!” Mrs. Miller says. She is lucky that Tanya was close by when she was choking. Tanya will record what happened, and Mrs. Miller’s doctor will check on Mrs. Miller later.

Choking is an emergency that can happen anywhere. People with diseases that affect the muscles and people who have had strokes can have difficulty swallowing. People who have poorly fitting dentures might have trouble chewing food into small pieces. These people might choke on their food more than other people might. Nursing assistants should be watchful during mealtimes so they can help someone immediately if he or she starts choking.

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners