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Boy Honored For Saving Choking Friend

August 11, 1986

LYNN, Mass. (AP) _ Five-year-old Brent Meldrum, who rescued his 6-year-old playmate from choking to death, was honored for his heroism Monday and received congratulations from the doctor who developed the Heimlich maneuver.

″Thank you,″ was all Brent said when he grabbed the microphone after receiving the gifts, including a computer from the City Council.

Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, who developed the anti-choking technique, said he was heartened rather than surprised that the young hero learned it from a TV show.

The Heimlich maneuver is so simple to learn that schools should teach it to all children from first grade on and send brochures home to educate parents, said Heimlich, who joined city officials in honoring the boy.

Brent became famous last week after he grabbed Tanya Branden in a bear hug and lifted the 41-pound girl off the floor, dislodging a piece of hard candy caught in her throat.

″This incident points out better than any words can express that it is possible to learn it instantaneously from watching it on TV or seeing a photograph,″ Heimlich said. ″I think it says to us that everyone in the country should know it or we are failing to perform our duties.″

The Heimlich maneuver is estimated to have saved more than 10,000 lives in the 12 year since its invention. Choking, the sixth leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, kills about 4,000 people a year.

Heimlich said the emergency procedure, which involves grabbing a choking victim from behind in a bear hug below the rib cage, differs from other emergency techniques such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation because it isn’t complicated and doesn’t require thorough formal training.

Lynn Mayor Albert V. DiVirgilio presented Brent with a medal of honor from the city. He also received plaques, T-shirts and certificates commemorating his feat, including honors from the Legislature.

Earlier, Brent, who called the emergency technique the ″time-life remover,″ said he saw the maneuver performed on a television rerun of the series ″Benson.″ On Tuesday he is scheduled to fly to California to visit actor Robert Guillaume, who played the TV character, his mother said.

Sue Meldrum said she originally tried to stop Brent from using the technique on his playmate because she was afraid he would hurt the little girl.

″I’m not saying he actually knew it (the procedure) but he was mimicking what he saw on TV and it worked,″ she said.

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