Device aims to reduce choking deaths among children, people with disabilities

HOUSTON – In 2020, the rate of kids dying from choking was 1-2 per 100,000.

Kids and people with disabilities are at a big risk of choking, which is why some people want to see more life-saving devices like Life Vac in public places.

“We feel like Life Vac should be in every care facility, every school, every restaurant, easily available for somebody as an added rescue option. There’s no reason not to have it for the disabled and the abled,” said Toni Labbate.

Labbate started the nonprofit, Equal First Aid, helping people with disabilities. She’s specifically trying to raise awareness about the dangers of choking for people like Houstonian Gary Lynn.

“You never know when that day may come,” Lynn said.

He is 29-years-old and has cerebral palsy. Getting him out of his wheelchair for the Heimlich maneuver would be a difficult balancing act for anyone. So, he supports more awareness for choking, and even though he’s never had to use it, carries a Life Vac device on his chair.

“It could be lifesaving for people like me,” Lynn said.

Here’s how it works:

Place the device over the mouth, push down, and pull. The swift, firm suction should dislodge whatever is blocking an airway.

The masks range in size from kids to adults. Inventor, Arthur Lih, said they’ve saved 300 lives in 10 years.

“If Life Vac was as prevalent as AED, the estimate save would be in the 3,000s,” Lih said.

There are no needles, no medicine or anything that has the potential of harm. It’s just a suction. It costs about $70.