The neck, as in, the thing between head and shoulders, is on my mind because someone I know is having serious health problems with his. So I would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to a product I have coveted for years, which is also illegal for me.

Necks seem to be a particular stress point in all mammals. Anyone who has massaged a cat or dog has witnessed this. A narrow cable it is, between the restless shoulders and the weight of the head.

And necks are a particular weakness in chordates. If we had no neck, we could be like amoebas, which simply use their whole bodies to surround and ingest what they want to eat, as with this amoeba turning live struggling creatures into dead food while we look right into it.

Instead, we chordates, being basically tubes made of meat, are prone to choking at that vulnerable point where what my primary care physician charmingly calls “the swallowing tube” meets the, um, air tube.

Hence the Heimlich Maneuver, which has saved countless lives.

But what if the Heimlich doesn’t work and that piece of steak is really lodged in there and you haven’t an EMT’s set of equipment on you? If you’re lucky, there will be a doctor on the spot with a penknife and the tube from a pen to perform a cricothyrotomy, aka a “crike,” the way TV doctors do? A cut is made in the cricothyroid membrane (ligament) and a tube is inserted to allow breathing through the tiny tube, hardly a yoga breath but enough to preserve life.

What if someone on the spot had something more cleanly, more dignified than a penknife and a bit of pen for performing that crike?

lifestat_imgEnter the LifeStat, a crike kit small enough to fit on a keychain.

I want to own an LifeStat. Say I’m eating at a restaurant and someone starts choking. The burliest person around performs a Heimliich, which fails. Meanwhile, I’m undoing my keychain and preparing the LifeStat. Puncture and the tube goes into the cricothyroid ligament, the patient lives, and I’m the hero. The instructions are right on the website.

Larynx_external_CricothyrotomyBut things aren’t so simple. Because of the bottleneck nature of the neck, there are lots of important nerves and blood vessels there. The cricothyroid ligament is a small target. The airway has plenty of cartilaginous support. You have to know what the cricothyroid membrane feels like, how to find it in different people. And thus, the LifeStat is reserved for sale only to physicians.

But I still want one for the sheer cleverness of the thing. It has great power for something so simple, with just a few parts, no electronics, small enough to put in one’s pocket. I want to hold one in my hands, to see how it works, to marvel at it. For about five minutes.

I will never own an LifeStat because I will never be in a position to learn how to use it, and thus it is of no use to me. But if you’re a physician, I hope you will buy one of these and keep it on your keychain, because it’s a damned clever little crike kit and you might just save someone’s life when you don’t have the usual equipment at hand.


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