Dear American Medical Association,
I am writing to you as a last resort. My name is Chester Von Strasberg and I invented the Heimlich maneuver. Now I know what you are thinking in your bullshit ivory tower, “Henry Heimlich” was the creator of the Heimlich maneuver. This is malarkey of the highest order and I won’t stand for it anymore. I am dictating this letter to my Carol my Dominican nurse while I wait out my final days. I would also like it on the record that I am pretty sure she is stealing from me, make sure to leave this part in Carol, I want you to know that I know.
Back to this thief Heimlich. Hank and I were colleagues in the late 60’s. Actually check that, we were brothers. Sure we were both vying for funding and credit back in a time when those words meant something. But goddamn it we weren’t just doctors, oh no, we were Gods garbed in white lab coats. People believed in us back then, this was before all this malpractice nonsense that has ruined medicine. We would smoke a pack of unfiltered camels, drink 4 fingers of Johnny Red and deliver twins in between rounds of golf at our own private club. It was paradise. We were actually at the country club when I first demonstrated what would come to be known as “The Heimlich Maneuver”.
Hank, our wives, and myself were out on the patio eating club sandwiches and drinking Singapore Slings. Back then Hank and I were closer than a pair of Aces in Doyle Brunson’s hand. Hank starts to choke on his second sandwich of the day (the greedy bastard). Both our wives are screaming like long hairs at a Beatles concert. In a flash of what I can only assume was divine intervention I punched Hank as hard as I could in the bread basket. Boom! The club sandwich goes sailing out of his mouth and on to the latin fella that poured drinks at the club. Hank gasped for air and stared at me. I couldn’t tell if he was in shock that he had beaten the devil that day or that I punched him like he owed me money.
Once you save a man’s life everything changes. Hank and I started drifting apart. Having fought in WW2 I had saved a man before and most of the time there is an understanding that develops. A closeness that words can’t define. But with Hank it was different. I think it was because his wife Jenny always had eyes for me. A few years before after a pitcher of Mai Tais at the hospital Christmas party Hank and I had decided to swap gals for the night. I thought nothing of it at the time. But I think he always resented me for doing things to Jenny that night that she would never forgot. I had been in his bed and now he owed me his life. It was too much for one man to take. He withdrew from me. After a few months we hardly spoke. Later that year he transferred to the Pacific Northwest and I thought I would never hear from him again.
In 1973 I find myself flipping through my copy of Emergency Medicine a magazine for professional miracle workers like myself. Low and behold what do I see? The story of some dope in a restaurant using my maneuver to save someone from choking, the author of this piece of fiction? Hank Heimlich, that son of a bitch. Sure he changed it to more of a strong hug than a violent rabbit punch but it was more or less the very thing that I used to save his life. As Paul Harvey would say, “and know you know…the rest of the story.”
So before Carol smothers me in my sleep and takes the krugerrands I have stored behind the bricks in my study, I wanted someone to know the real story. It should be called the Von Strasberg Maneuver from now till the end of time. While the Heimlich Maneuver should only be used to refer to when you your best friend drinks a pitcher of Mai Tais and licks your wife’s pink secret while you cry in the next room unable to get it up. If you could get this changed it would mean a whole lot to me and my family.
All The Best,
Chester Von Strasberg