Choke at a restaurant and there’s a good chance a kindly stranger will wrap their arms around your midsection and perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Choke while dining home alone and your options are limited, such as trying to dislodge that piece of steak on your own.

“Dying is another,” quipped John Weisman, vice president of sales and marketing for Big John Products Inc.

Not a joking matter, perhaps, but the Canoga Park company, best known for making oversize toilet seats, can afford a bit of a smirk. This month, it started selling a product called the Heimlich Helper, designed to help people perform the maneuver on themselves.

The plastic device looks like a pogo stick with two handles at one end and a paddle at the other. Choking victims are supposed to extend their arms, grab the handles and then thrust the paddle end into their midsections, mimicking the quick inward thrusts the Heimlich produces to dislodge blockages.

Big John bought an exclusive license for the device from a local inventor.

The Heimlich Helper carries a $40 suggested retail price and is sold online through retailers such as and, as well as through Grainger Industrial Supply Inc.

Although it was designed for solo diners, buyers include hospitals such as UC San Francisco Medical Center and the city of Los Angeles.

“Anywhere where food is consumed, there’s a choking hazard,” said Big John Chief Executive Scott Kramer.

– James Rufus Koren

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