News & Press

A Hero in Every Household

Many years ago, I saved my wife’s life.  Not in that hyperbolic figurative way people talk about when you fix a flat tire in the rain or take them to the airport when the cab is late.  It was in a literal way – that very real, pulse-pounding, act-quickly-or-this-could-go-very-bad kind of way.    

We were a young engaged couple, living in New Orleans, and had gone to a cheap restaurant with a friend before walking down the street to watch a Mardi Gras parade.  I was engaged in conversation with our friend when my fiancé grabbed my arm.  I saw the look of alarm on her face and asked, “Are you OK?”  She shook her head “NO!”  I said, “Are you choking?”  She nodded “YES!”

I must confess that my first thought was a tracheotomy.  After all, I had a steak knife right in front of me.  A simple incision and I could move the blockage from the windpipe.  I was not and am not a doctor, but I had watched a lot of episodes of Marcus Welby, MD and MASH.  What could go wrong? 

Then I remembered hearing about a new technique, only recently developed, called the Heimlich Maneuver.  I stepped out of the booth, pulled her out, hugged her from the back and gave a big jerk into the diaphragm.  The piece of meat came out like a cork from a bottle and we resumed our meal.  We have now been married 32 years.

I had a call yesterday from a woman whose husband very likely saved her life, too.  She was wearing a sleeveless blouse around the house and he said, “What is that spot on the back of your arm?”  She couldn’t see it, of course, and had no idea what he was talking about.  After all, when was the last time you looked at the back of your arm? 

The spot was there though, and so off she went to the dermatologist.  The biopsy came back—melanoma in situ.  In other words, she had the deadliest form of skin cancer.  But, she had caught it so early, it was easily treated by her doctor with a simple outpatient surgery.  She quickly and easily beat her cancer all because of her husband and an early catch.

If you saw a loved one choking on a piece of food, wouldn’t you take fast, decisive action?  We have the same opportunity every day with our spouses, our parents, our brothers or sisters by being thoughtful and observant about the spots on their bodies. 

If you see a spot that looks different from other spots, or is changing—don’t hesitate for a moment.  Be sure your loved one gets it checked out. 

We cheer the hero who rescues someone from a burning building, who pulls a child out of the street, who performs CPR.  Catching a melanoma early, when it can be treated easily, is just as heroic.