1/30/17, Heimlich

Hi Everyone,

I hope January rolled out nicely for you, and you got some things done, and managed to stay warm. It was freezing cold everywhere I went, or pouring rain, or both, or snowing. Definitely a rugged winter in the places where I go!!!

It’s not a glamourous subject, but I wanted to share with you an experience I had over the holidays, which was a bit of a wake up call for me, and led to some useful thoughts. I managed to catch a nasty cold (people talk about a “bad” cold—-is there a good cold? Definitely not!!), travelling from Paris to New York, and home to San Francisco for the holidays with my kids. Between plane travel and freezing cold weather along the way, and being busy, my cold was bad by the time I got home, and I was taking lots of Vitamin C. I was rushing around, all my kids and their partners were home, many of them brought their dogs, meals took a lot of planning, every outing and meal involved a large group, and I was really busy. I was getting ready to go out for dinner with them one night, and thought, oh I’ll pop another vitamin C for good measure, tossed it in my mouth, took a small sip of water while doing 10 other things and rushed out of my bathroom, AND OMG, the damn vitamin got stuck in my throat. I mean REALLY stuck. Not the kind of coughing and spluttering where you choke for a minute and tell everyone that it went down the wrong way, it lodged right in my windpipe and not a wisp of air could get in or out. That has never happened to me before. It was like being strangled, and I knew instantly that I was in BIG trouble. NO AIR AT ALL. Zero. Apparently, the normal reaction of many choking victims is to run away, like leave a restaurant table and rush to the bathroom—-because it’s embarrassing—-where often choking victims die alone with no one to help them. Fortunately, I didn’t do that, and had the opposite reaction. I knew I needed help and fast, before I passed out from lack of air, and might have died in my bathroom. I rushed out of the room and ran to where most of my kids were congregating in the hall with husbands and boyfriends, and some employees, about a dozen people or so. I pointed to my throat, and they could see my distress immediately. It took a few seconds to register, and then literally everyone started to scream, really scream, “OhmyGod, she’s choking!! What do we do?!!” A few people screamed call 911, which they did, but mostly they panicked and so did I. I was still getting absolutely no air at all, and one of my daughters grabbed me, and started squeezing me. She had heard that’s what you do for a choking victim, didn’t know how to do it but tried (you’re supposed to stand behind them, put your arms around them and press hard, forcing air upwards to dislodge what is stuck). She’s strong and squeezed hard and I tried to push her away, and not knowing what else to do, she started lifting me off the ground, and banging me back down on my feet. I tried to get out of her grip and couldn’t, and suddenly the nasty little vitamin flew out of my mouth onto the floor, and I could breathe again (it had the effect of a cork in a bottle, and sealed out all air). Although she didn’t know how to do the Heimlich maneuver for choking victims, and did it in a very rudimentary style (squeezing me, which pushed air up from my lungs to where the pill was stuck), and banging me up and down on my feet on the floor, she created enough momentum to dislodge it and save my life. The experience scared the hell out of me!!! And all of them. I could easily have died, by the time the paramedics would have come, I would have choked to death, which happens to many, many people every year, with food. It was a real wake up call to all of us. I’ve taken many, many first aid classes when my kids were younger, I know how to do the Heimlich for a choking victim, but have never had to use it. Of my 9 adult children, only One has taken a first aid class, and she was out at the time. Of the employees standing by, NONE knew how to do the Heimlich, and only one of my kids figured she’d better do something, anything before I died, and it worked. After it happened and we stood around, we all talked about what you’re supposed to do, but no one knew. Another of my employees used to be a nurse, but she was out too. Everyone resolved that night to go to a first aid class, it’s a really smart thing to do, you might save a friend, a stranger, a child, one of your parents, or someone in a restaurant, (or yourself with the methods they teach you to use when you’re alone, which I didn’t think of in my panic) with just minimal knowledge and a class you’ve taken. If my daughter hadn’t squeezed me and banged me around, desperate to help, I would have died, from something so dumb as a vitamin C. It can happen to anyone, I was rushing, not paying attention, and swallowed wrong. VERY wrong.

It REALLY scared me. For about 2 weeks after, I didn’t take a vitamin or even a Tylenol when I felt lousy from my cold. After that, I would only take a vitamin with someone present, and would say loudly “I am taking a vitamin now” in case I choked. A month later, I’m still too scared to take a vitamin alone. What if no one was in the house??? I would have died. I bought signs to put in our kitchen in San Francisco and Paris, usually used in restaurants, to show what to do for a choking victim. And everyone who saw it happen has decided to take a basic first aid class, it’s a really smart thing to do.
I mention it only because it was a wake up call to us. Would YOU know what to do if someone were choking in front of you? Can you do the Heimlich maneuver? It’s easy to do if you know how. Anyway, I thought I would share this experience. You could save a life sometime, or someone could save yours. I will never forget the screams of panic that night, the look of terror on my kids’ faces, and my own terror when I could NOT breathe. So maybe a good idea is a first aid course this year (The Red Cross has them, and other places). It might serve you well. And I am going to be sooooo careful taking vitamins or any pill from now on. Scaaaarrrryyyy!!! And I am soooo grateful to be alive, and grateful to my daughter, for saving my life!!!

Have a great week!!

love, Danielle

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58 Comments so far
  1. Janine Hewitt January 30, 2017 12:04 pm

    Oh my goodness Danielle!!!!!…Happy for your happy ending and good advice for everyone to learn about the Heimlich technique! My mom tells us how my grandmother almost choked on a watermelon seed while laughing at a family backyard picnic. She said the whole family was so scared! My grandmother had a happy ending too. The seed dislodged on its own. Thank God!

  2. Alex January 30, 2017 1:22 pm

    Which of your girls saved you? We have to thanks her too!

  3. Elaine January 30, 2017 3:36 pm

    Hi Danielle,

    Thank God that you are alive and that your daughter was there to save you!!! What a traumatic incident, but yet you find good out of it in reminding us all to take first aid classes and to learn the heimlich (so true).

    Regards, Elaine

  4. Judith Briggs February 3, 2017 3:41 pm

    Last year while at a funeral reception I started to choke on a piece of stollen bread
    I grabbed my neck and ran into the washroom. I could barely breathe. Luckily, someone had seen me leave and told my husband. He came in, took one look and did the Heimlich manoeuvre on me which cleared my airway. It was very scary.
    No more stollen bread for me.

  5. Lee Laurie Yoas February 4, 2017 4:37 pm

    I am so glad that your daughter thought fast enough to save you. That is so scary! I have a hard time swollowing pills. I have to relax myself first and be very careful. I almost choked to death on a peppermint years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. A very frightening experience.

    Just wanted to say I love your books. I’ve been reading them for many years. Right now I am reading Blue and I love it!

  6. Lorraine February 6, 2017 5:51 pm


    I am so happy you are ok. I can’t imagine how frightening this was, occasionally I’ve been in a situation where something “went down the wrong way” but nothing like you have described. How awful. But I think it’s great you made people to be more aware of this, and that you can also do it on yourself. The courses are a great idea, and people can also view this type of thing on utube. Thank you.

    Love, Lorraine

  7. Helen Hu February 17, 2017 4:50 am

    Hi, Danielle, Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I remember in your book “Sunset in St Tropez”, you described how Gwen saved John’s life by using Heimlich technique. Never know some day it happened to you and other persons. Very good advice. Cheers!

  8. Kerri February 17, 2017 9:15 am

    Oh wow! Glad you’re okay after that scary episode. Which of your daughters saved you? My thanks to her for having the guts to act in a split second to save your life. I strongly encourage you, your children, your staff, and even your grandchildren to take first aid classes.

    My tip: drink water before taking your pills – the water lubricates your throat and makes it easier for the pill to pass through. Then drink more water but with the pill. If it’s a big pill, cut it in half and follow the water tip.

  9. Cairine February 17, 2017 11:28 am

    Bill Murray in the film ‘Groundhog Day’ uses it on a man in a restaurant choking on a piece of beef. It’s a pretty good illustration of what to do!

  10. Carol Von Slomski February 23, 2017 8:16 am

    Thank God you got it loose. I also had an experience like that in a restaurant, choked on a piec of baked potato caught in my throat. It is a horrible feeling to have no air. I tried a drink of ice tea and it came back up through my nose and mouth. My husband was getting up to come do the Heimlich, and I pushed with both fists under my middle breast bone and it popped loose. What a horrible feeling, no air at all. So happy you are all right. Sending Love. Carol

  11. Cyralene February 23, 2017 8:17 am

    Hi Danielle!Thank God u r ok . Continue to take care of yourself. Love reading your books.God bless.

  12. Linda February 23, 2017 8:40 am

    Love your books. Sorry for your scare and happy your daughter kept trying.

  13. Tammy woods February 23, 2017 8:40 am

    I’m so glad your ok Danielle! Very scary.I live alone so it really made me think, thank you

  14. Roseanne malinoski February 23, 2017 8:41 am

    So glad there was someone there to help you. God Bless. Little do we realize taking something to help our health could kill us.

    Take Care. Love your books.

  15. Seda February 23, 2017 8:42 am

    Hi Danielle,
    Be very careful please. I cannot live without your books

  16. Jane Ehrhardt February 23, 2017 8:50 am

    I have never choked (thank you Lord), but, have always been leery of swallowing large vitamins. Just remember to drink plenty of water & take your time (NOT multi-tasking). lol… Thank God for your daughter. By-the-way, LOVE your books!

  17. Linda Frisco February 23, 2017 8:56 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about this happening to you. I would have been terrified also. Thank God you are ok.,I just bought your book Mistress. Can’t wait to start it later today. I love you and your family. I have almost every book you have ever wrote. I’ve been a loyal fan of yours for years. It would have been a very sad day for so many. if God had taken you . I just felt the need to tell you I am only one of the many people that adore you. Thank you God for sparing Danielle Steel.

  18. Karen Macoomb February 23, 2017 9:01 am

    Oh my god. I am so so glad you are ok.
    I experienced an incidencdent of chocking. I was eating potatoe skins with mozzarella cheese.
    The cheese went down my windpipe.
    I did exactly what you said. I went into the bathroom and panicked. I was very very lucky also. After going through some scarry moments I was able to pull it out of my windpipe.
    I am so happy your daughter was there to help you. I was alone and scared . Thank God it all worked out for us both.
    Karen Macoomb
    I love all your books you are the best

  19. Bev argent February 23, 2017 9:06 am

    Omg what a horrible experience for you all. Thankyou so much for sharing that. I will definitely be looking into first aid courses near me. Hooe you are ok now. Lots of love bev x

  20. Rosie February 23, 2017 9:08 am

    I’m so glad you are alright. Thank God that your children were there to help you. If you are by yourself, you could stand in front of a chair and thrust yourself on the chair hard a few times that would help air go up to your wind pipe.

    Rosie Alba February 23, 2017 9:04 am

  21. Janice Hewitt February 23, 2017 9:40 am

    Just read this blog because of the post on Facebook. I am very sorry you had such a scary experience but at the same time I am truly happy that your daughter was successful in dislodging the vitamin!
    A few years back I was cleaning up my kitchen from a pot roast dinner. Everybody was out of the house except my oldest son who was laying on the couch watching TV. As I was putting the roast away I took a small piece and it got caught in my throat. It is truly a horrifying experience not being able to take in any air. I couldn’t talk but needed to get my son’s attention so I started to bang my foot on the floor. He turned around and it took a a few seconds for him to realize what was happening. Thank goodness he had learned the Heimlich Maneuver in high school! He performed the procedure and saved my life. Thank God for our happy endings!!

  22. Ingi Mcdowell February 23, 2017 10:03 am

    Here’s a great link to using the Heimlich on ourselves, if necessary. So glad you’re okay and grateful for your quick-thinking daughter! Stay well! http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/dr-oz-unexpected?video_id=2678777269001

  23. Brenda Evans February 23, 2017 10:25 am

    So glad you’re ok! Also, it’s great that you used your incident as an opportunity to encourage people to take a First Aid course to learn the Heimlich maneuver! It’s important and you never know when you might need such valuable information! Thank you for sharing your talent, too!

  24. Margarita Fernandez February 23, 2017 10:26 am

    Thank God you’re daughter helped. It’s a very traumatic experience. Glad you’re doing fine my favorite, amazing author. God bless.

  25. Patricia Moon February 23, 2017 10:27 am

    I also take a daily Vit C. Because of the size of it, I will now crush it first. I have had a capsule open up in my throat from not washing down with enough water. Very painful. So glad you had help near by. Great information. Thank you.

  26. Connie Gillian February 23, 2017 10:29 am

    Thank God that your daughter helped you.I know how scary that is. I have been in your shoes. Now, two things you may want to do.
    1. Heve and endoscopy of the throat.
    2. Have an ultrasound of the neck. These two need checked out in case that could have been the cause, even swollen glands with the cold you had. Better to be safe. We need you and your books.

  27. Joanne Brunot February 23, 2017 10:30 am

    So glad your ok .had a similar issue.i was home alone eating chicken talking to my sister on phone when I started to choke,she couldn’t remember my address even tho the # was 911D.crazy…i went outside to see if anyone was around and had to bend over and kept trying to do it myself…thank goodness it worked.have a lovely day

  28. sandra sidden February 23, 2017 10:33 am

    It is scary. Often my food gets stuck in my esaugues . Thank goodness I can go to the restroom and empty it and continue eating. I have found that if I drink something before I eat I can enjoy my meal better.So I suggest you drink something before taking your vitamin. Take care Sandra

  29. Connie Gillian February 23, 2017 10:38 am

    I tried to edit my quote. 1. Have an endoscopy is how it should read. Sorry

  30. Barbara copeland February 23, 2017 10:40 am

    So glad you are o.k. And God bless your daughter.

  31. Maribel February 23, 2017 11:04 am

    I am very happy you are okay. It is very scary i know someone that died that way. Everyone should take a first aid course like cpr. I am a pediatric nurse so I know but it is very scary if I had to use it for one of my family member or a friend. Thanks God nothing happened and you are okay. By the way I love your books and have read all of them. God bless you

  32. Mary Ellen February 23, 2017 11:20 am

    Thanks for the reminder (sent through a friend linked to you on Facebook)!! Also, you CAN do the Heimlich on yourself. I always heard about throwing yourself over the back of a chair – here are more ideas!
    Love your books!

  33. Janice wilson February 23, 2017 11:20 am

    I was so shocked to read your story. Sooooo glad that your daughter was able to help you. As a Girl Scout leader we had to take first aid classes so in case something happen with my girls. I am also married to a disabled veteran and I stay in tune with his heath needs. Good for you and glad your ok

  34. Amy Allen February 23, 2017 11:45 am

    I’m so glad you are ok! That’s so scary. I have four children and have never had one choke but it’s my worst fear! Glad your daughter tried something to save you I really need to take a first aid class. I haven’t in over 20 years. We just always think it won’t happen to us!

  35. Shirell February 23, 2017 12:13 pm

    Pleased you are ok danielle I just love your books I buy them every time

  36. Kathy Gautreaux February 23, 2017 12:20 pm

    Thank God one of your children tried something. Before I ever heard of the Heimlich technique, my 5 year old daughter had a plastic heart from a Wedding Veil wine bottle in her mouth, which I only found out after the fact. Next thing you know she was choking on it. I turned her upside down and patted her back and it came out, thank God. It is a scary situation and I hate to think of a world without Danielle Steel or new Danielle Steel books in it. Love You!

  37. Judi Carroll February 23, 2017 2:27 pm

    Danielle,Thank God you had presence of mind to run into the room where your children where.Thank God your daughter kept doing what she was doing,even though you were resisting her attempts.I cannot imagine a world without your books.I have read every single one of them.please be careful swallowing.A fellow bay area resident.?

  38. evelyn rubin February 23, 2017 2:36 pm

    Try buying chewable vitamin c. bj’s has them. I accidentally swallowed one, didnt’t choke, but it hurt.

  39. Chandra February 23, 2017 3:11 pm

    Thanks for caring and sharing so glad that you are ok because I want to read more of your books which I enjoy very much. I will take my time from now on when taking pills.

  40. Joyce McCormick February 23, 2017 3:17 pm

    Thank you for reminding us all to be extra careful while taking vitamins and for the need to take a first aid class. Glad you are okay. How fortunate you were to have family nearby!

  41. LaVeryl Dlouhy February 23, 2017 3:26 pm

    You brought home a real problem, what to do when living alone! I am for sure looking into it. God Bless.

  42. Donna Henrici February 23, 2017 3:55 pm

    That training is so important for many reasons! Checking is so scary and it happens in restaurants a lot. It can also be from asth,Pam or being sick that knowing cpr could save a life! I’m so glad you are ok! The world needs you here with us! ??

  43. Donna Henrici February 23, 2017 3:57 pm

    So sorry for all the auto corrects. I suppose choking could be scary but I meant choking. And asthma certainly not asthPam lol. Be well!

  44. rebecca chriqui February 23, 2017 4:58 pm

    I am so glad the story had a happy ending.
    You are right, we ALL need to know the Heimlich Maneuver.
    Be well and take care of yourself.

  45. Robin Oswald February 23, 2017 7:13 pm

    Danielle there may be a reason the vitamin c pill stuck in your throat such as a narrowing in your esphogus. It may be a good idea to speak to your physician to see if he/she thinks and endoscopy would be a good idea. I’m so happy you are ok and your daughter took action quickly. You are my favorite author!

  46. Karen February 23, 2017 8:09 pm

    When my son was about 3 years old he choked on a lifesaver. I never gave him hard candy but we were at Disney and he wanted them…I gave in. Well he was running and started choking on it. I thought I knew how to give the heimlick and knelt down and proceeded to do the maneuver. It wasn’t working
    and he folded in half and passed out striking his head on the ground. People were all around us and soon there was a large crowd. I started screaming for help and immediately a Disney employee grabbed him in his arms and squeezed him and the life saver popped out. It was a horrible experience.

  47. Shannon McVay February 23, 2017 8:54 pm

    So glad you are OK! I’ve had problems breathing after surgery and it is the scariest thing ever. It’s like being in an earthquake. You feel so helpless! I recently decided that I need to take more first aid and CPR classes. It’s been 30 yeas since I was certified and definitely time for an update. This clinches it for me. I’m looking for classes tomorrow. Thank you, Danielle! And once again, I’m so glad you are well.

  48. Itah February 24, 2017 1:11 am

    Wow what a good piece of advice! I also take medication for blood pressure and vitamins daily and i normally take 3 or 4 capsules at a go and throw them into my mouth, followed by water. I think i should learn from your experience and take them one by one. Its also necessary to not multitask when you are taking them, but the first aid class and kit for all family members is a must. Thank you very much for sharing

  49. Nancy February 24, 2017 4:01 am

    Thank God you are ok, your daughter was so brave, I am so sorry it was and is still so scary.Glad they all taking classes because the Heimlick does work, I am a nurse and had to do it twice and both times it worked. The poster of how to do it is a good idea I always had one on the fridge for years. Please take care and again I am so grateful you are ok and maybe next time to be sure when you see your Dr you can ask him about your esophagus. You know why you choked so I am sure you are fine but I used to choke on food so they had to widen mine which was a simple procedure,God bless you love Namcy

  50. Iuliana Dospina February 24, 2017 7:57 am

    Hi Danielle,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I am happy you are ok.
    Love reading your books.

    Best regards,

  51. Debbie Varner February 24, 2017 10:31 am

    Try soft gel vitamins. They go down a lot easier.

  52. Brenda Willis February 24, 2017 1:23 pm

    WOW, that is scarey!!! I was on vacation and was eating out with friends and faily and I got choked on a piece of steak…One of the waitresses cam over and took care of me but it took more than one time. I was so relieved and started crying and thanking her and apologising to my friends and family. I try to cut up into smaller pieces now!!!! Glad you are OK Danielle!!!!

  53. Danielle February 24, 2017 1:36 pm

    Wow so scary! My husband has a disorder where his windpipe closes off when he eats certain things with a lot of hormones. We’ve had a number of situations where he’s been choking. We have four small children under 12 and the look of terror in their faces when this happens is something one doesn’t forget. I’m glad everything worked out for the best and that you all have taken first aid. It’s a very useful set of skills to own.

    God bless,

  54. Linda Frame February 24, 2017 1:52 pm

    Danielle I am SO grateful your daughter acted so quickly & saved you!!! These incidents happen so quickly & seconds matter.

    As a former nurse, I also became victim to a lodged corn into my windpipe during dinner. Knowing I had to act quickly, I used a chair back to dislodge it & although I broke a rib, it saved my life.

    You had the commen sense to move quickly towards people & whether they knew what to do or not, someone stepped up & did something to help. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t pretty or perfect, it worked none the less

    Everyone should know that ANYTHING put into your mouth (medicine, food, liquids and even Vitamin C can cause a risk in a split second.

    As an author, I would like to include an example of your similar episode to others as an important life saving piece of information. This analogy would be of course without your names for your confidentiality and only with your permission.

    My very best to you Danielle & bless your daughter for knowing what had to be done.

  55. Laine February 24, 2017 6:56 pm

    Sounds awful scarry, had this happen to my husband once and di the heimlich manuver and it worked then too. Sometime we just get in a hurry and forget what we are doing. Time to slow down and just relax more.
    Glad you are okay, I kove your books and look forward to the release in March.

  56. Karen zakula February 24, 2017 10:10 pm

    Glad you are ok. This is very good advise and I am going to plan a family class. Know you probably have saved someone by sharing your story! Thanks!

  57. Celestina February 25, 2017 6:20 am

    Wow..real wake up call. Thank God for your life.

  58. Linda Revere July 11, 2017 7:52 pm

    Dear Danielle,
    I am so grateful that you were saved from choking by your daughter. Thanks so much for alerting us to this danger! In the meantime, may I make a small humble suggestion? Perhaps you would like to take your vitamins in powder form. For example, I take the OTC “Emergen-C” that is available in our supermarkets and drugstores here in Texas. Regular vitamins also are sold as gummie-like candies that can be chewed and broken up before swallowing.

    Thank you for your wonderful books! I have learned so much from them while enjoying them as entertainment too. You are a beautiful soul who is so cultured and caring about others. We want to read your books for a long, long time! (I just bought “The Duchess” today.)

    Linda Revere (Austin, Texas)