Thursday, June 22, 2017

Via NBC Bay Area, another chest thrusts choking rescue wrongly attributed to "the Heimlich" -- will they publish a correction? [UPDATED]

In a June 18, 2017 Sunday Times media watchdog column, John Burns at the paper's at the paper's Dublin bureau reported about my successful journalistic odyssey to obtain published corrections to numerous factual errors in obituaries about my dad, for example:
(The) headline (in the Irish Sunday Independent's obit) was wrong. “Henry Heimlich — surgeon who invented chest thrust,” it said.
(The) Heimlich manoeuvre is an abdominal thrust, performed below the rib cage. Big deal? “As it happens, there’s an ongoing debate in the medical community about whether chest thrusts are more effective and safer than the Heimlich,” Peter (Heimlich) says. “Also, my father went to considerable effort to discredit the use of chest thrusts when someone’s choking."
Speaking of chest thrusts, based on a dashcam video of a choking rescue in Rochester, NY that went viral, a couple days ago I posted an item that raised this question.

How many choking rescues in which the rescuer used chest thrusts have been wrongly attributed to "the Heimlich"?

Coincidentally, via an NBC Bay Area story that aired the same day, 12-year-old Rylie Palfalvi of Pleasanton, CA, described how she successfully performed chest thrusts on her bushy-haired younger brother Max who was choking on popcorn.

But newsman Garvin Thomas incorrectly reported that Max's intrepid sis "did the Heimlich."

I certainly don't expect most people, including general assignment reporters [see update below], to be aware of the distinction, but as I told the Sunday Times, why not get it right?

Plus why not give Ms. Palfalvia credit for perhaps being on the cutting edge of lifesaving first aid?

With that in mind, I'll send a request for a published correction to NBC Bay Area and will report the results here. [Page down for the results.]

For more information on the topic of chest thrusts vs. "the Heimlich," click here.

Finally, re: my dad's obit in the Irish Sunday Independent -- aka The Sindo -- here's the headline before my corrections request...

...and here's the current version:

UPDATE (6/24/17):

A few days ago I e-mailed my item and supporting information to Garvin Thomas at NBC Bay Area which resulted in a friendly, productive correspondence and the addition of this paragraph at the beginning of his story:


Also, he set me straight about this: 
And since we're having fun with accuracy, I'm not a general assignment reporter. I produce a feature segment (Bay Area Proud) that highlights stories of kindness, generosity, and success. And, yes, it's as great a job as it sounds.
Thank you, Garvin -- and regret the error!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Clarification from Dechoker inventor -- his anti-choking device is NOT being used for U.S. president, but for Turkish president Erdoğan

If Turkey's brutal president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chokes on this chicken leg, he'll be treated with the Dechoker, according to the device's inventor

Last week I reported If the U.S. President has a choking emergency, will he be treated with this anti-choking plunger? about this page I found on the website of Dechoker Spain, based in Madrid.

According to Google Translate, here's the headline in English: The Secret Service of the United States protects The President with Dechoker both on land and aboard Air Force One. The identical text is on the photo of President Barack Obama next to Air Force One. On the top right corner is the badge logo of the U.S. Secret Service.

When it comes to accurate reporting, journalists would do well to heed this advice from President Ronald Reagan: Trust, but verify.

And who better to verify than Alan Carver, inventor of the device and CEO of Dechoker LLC in Concord, NC, near Charlotte?

In response to my inquiry, here's what I received from him yesterday. 
From: Alan Carver <>
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:37:40 -0400
Subject: Re: blogger inquiry
To: Peter M. Heimlich <>


We just spoke to the Director of Operations in Europe - our units are in the President's house and airplane for the President of Turkey, not the United States. We have asked Dechoker Spain to rectify the statements on their website.

Thank you for the notification.


Sent from my iPhone
If any members of the security force of Turkey's brutal president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are reading this, if you're not busy instigating bloody brawls with peaceful protesters, here's a training video featuring Mr. Carver.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Choking first aid: Are New Zealand, Australia, and a guy in Rochester, NY, ahead of the curve?

As Sidebar readers know, medical authorities in New Zealand and Australia don't recommend the Heimlich maneuver (aka abdominal thrusts) for responding to a choking emergency.

Per Aviva Ziegler's 2009 documentary, in the Land Down Under my dad's namesake treatment is considered unproven and potentially harmful.

That opinion was echoed in the American Heart Association's 2005 guidelines which state, "Life-threatening complications have been associated with the use of abdominal thrusts."

Instead Kiwi and Oz first aid experts recommend back blows and chest thrusts.

The latter treatment was first proposed in a 1976 study by my friend Dr. Chuck Guildner of Everett, Washington. Click here for more about that and related information.

Yesterday, Radio Live New Zealand aired Do you know what to do when a child is choking? which included this clip of first aid instructor Billy Doyle explaining the back blows followed by chest thrusts protocol. To my knowledge it's the first time the chest thrusts treatment has been described in a video.

As it happens, "the Heimlich" has been credited with saving choking victims when, in fact, the rescuer performed -- yep -- back blows and chest thrusts.

For example, in January a dashcam video of a dramatic choking rescue in Rochester, NY, was picked up by numerous news outlets.

Via the original YouTube video, here's the description:


Here's the video:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Paper Trail: How a UK government-initiated medical review choked Yorkshire group's attempt to install anti-choking devices in local schools

A couple weeks ago I reported an item entitled UK crowdfunding effort to install anti-choking devices in Yorkshire schools derailed by government-initiated medical review.

Since then, via FOIA requests I obtained records documenting what triggered the review, who conducted it, and how it was implemented.

The records also include legal threats and a disclosure that the review was supposed to be kept under wraps.

See below for a pdf file I organized and posted to my Scribd account. Click here to download the file.

Briefly, as reported by the Hull Daily Mail, just days after the tragic choking death of a five-year-old boy eating lunch at school the first week of February, Edd Wheldon -- a member of a charitable group called the Hull Wyke Round Table -- e-mailed local primary schools offering donations of an anti-choking suction device called the LifeVac along with training sessions to be conducted by LifeVac EU, based in Devon.

Wheldon's e-mail triggered a February 17 e-mail from a Headteacher at one of the schools (who incorrectly called the LifeVac a "Medi Vac"):

Monday, June 12, 2017

If the U.S. President has a choking emergency, will he be treated with this anti-choking plunger? [UPDATED]

Is an anti-choking plunger device called the Dechoker part of the medical protocol for the President of the United States, "both on land and aboard Air Force One"?

That's what a distributor of the product claims.

Here's a TV news story about the Dechoker that aired a couple years ago on a Louisville, KY, station -- I'm quoted and my comments are at the 2:00 time stamp:

Via the website of the Dechoker company, based in Concord, North Carolina, northeast of Charlotte:

Via Dechoker Spain's website [6/14/17 UPDATE: Since this item was published two days ago, the following graphic and link appear to have been removed from the web page]:

The accompanying link leads to this one-page pdf:

I ran the main text through Google Translate and got the following results -- for clarity I've made some very minor grammatical changes; the bold text is from the original version:

The Secret Service of the United States protects The President with Dechoker both on land and aboard Air Force One

The Secret Service is an elite body, part of the Treasury Department, formed in 1865 and which for 100 years has as its main mission to protect the President, his family and dignitaries visiting the United States.

Its motto is "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best."

They rely on Dechoker to protect the President both on land and aboard the Air Force One, the White House jet. The presidential fleet is the center of government of the United States of America while the president is inside the aircraft in any part of the world. It can carry 700 passengers and carry food to 2,000 people.

All types of defense and security measures are used to guarantee the life of the head of state. Representing the presidential power and prestige of the United States, there are medical facilities on board Air Force One, including an operating table, emergency medical supplies including Dechoker as a first aid device in case of suffocation by choking, and a well stocked pharmacy.
Here's a close-up from the page:

I ran the above text through Google Translate -- here's what came back:
The Secret Service of the United States protects the President with Dechoker both on land and aboard Air Force One.
Here's another close-up from the page:

Today I asked the Secret Service and the White House for more information. 

I also asked if private companies may use the Secret Service logo on promotional materials and if photos of the President and Air Force One may be used for hyping products.

Finally, if the claims are on Dechoker's U.S. website, I couldn't find them.

Via the file properties of the pdf, this woman appears to be the author of the document, so presumably she can provide more information.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Business Insider story deals death blow to my dad's hokum about back blows -- and opens the door to further expose "the Koop maneuver"

September 1979 editorial published by trade magazine Emergency Medical Services

A news video published yesterday by Business Insider dealt another blow to my father's fraudulent 40-year campaign which he called, "back blows are death blows."

Here's a clip I made from the story by reporters Gene Kim and Jessica Orwig. (Click the link to watch the entire segment. I tried to post it here, but I couldn't get the embed code to work.)

What's the right way to save a choking victim's life? It turns out, the Heimlich maneuver is not the only approach – and it may not even be the best one.

Repeated blows to the back could be equally useful in a dangerous situation. You might be thinking that back blows will only lodge the food deeper into a person's trachea. But this is a myth perpetuated by Dr. Henry Heimlich.

According to reports from Dr. Heimlich's youngest son, Peter Heimlich, the founder of the Heimlich maneuver spent years trying to discredit back blows, publicly denouncing them as "death blows."
The story also tagged this 1982 research study by three Yale physicians which my father clandestinely funded. My wife Karen and I uncovered that scam which we helped bring to public attention via a first-rate 2006 New Haven Register expose by veteran medical journalist Abram Katz.

(Dr. Heimlich) even funded a study in the '80s that showed back blows could do more harm to a choking victim than good. But in truth, there is no valid scientific evidence to prove that back blows are any better, or worse, than the Heimlich maneuver.
Even after being busted for that mess, dad kept slinging his anti-back blows hokum, but the only reporter still willing to provide him with a platform was Cliff Radel at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Business Insider story also opens the door for more reporting about "the Koop maneuver."

Via a press release describing an influential 1985 Public Health Statement:
Surgeon General C. Everett Koop today endorsed the Heimlich manuever [sic], not as the preferred, but as the only method that should be used for the treatment of choking from foreign body airway obstruction.

Dr. Koop also urged the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association to teach only the Heimlich Manuever [sic] in their first aid classes. Dr. Koop urged both organizations to withdraw from circulation manuals, posters and other materials that recommend treating choking victims with back slaps and blows to the chest.

..."Millions of Americans have been taught to treat persons who are choking with back blows, chest thrusts and abdominal thrusts," Dr. Koop said. "Now, they must be advised...and I ask for the participation of the Red Cross, the American Heart Association and public health authorities everywhere...that these methods are hazardous, even lethal."

A back slap, the surgeon general said, can drive a foreign object even deeper into the throat.
Click here for Koop's two-part published statement which, like the press release, repeatedly misspells the word maneuver.

Per the Business Insider, there has never been any evidence that back blows are ineffective or dangerous.

Same goes for chest thrusts. In fact two studies concluded that they were more effective than "the Heimlich."

So why did Koop use his bully pulpit to circulate false information?
Via Maneuvering Over Heimlich, a 2007 Creators Syndicate column by the redoubtable Lenore Skenazy:
Back blows are "death blows," Dr. Heimlich declared long and loud as he lobbied for his maneuver's acceptance 30 years ago. In 1985, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop endorsed this view, dubbing backslaps "hazardous." After that, only the Heimlich Maneuver was considered kosher.

What most people don't realize, Dr. Heimlich's son, Peter Heimlich, said, is that "Koop was an old friend of my father's, and he did it as a buddy favor."
More about Dr. Koop's misleading statement via Heimlich Maneuver Endorsed by Cristine Russell, Washington Post, October 2, 1985.

Monday, May 29, 2017

UK crowdfunding effort to install anti-choking devices in Yorkshire schools derailed by government-initiated medical review

Three months after hosting a JustGiving crowdfunding campaign to purchase and donate an anti-choking device to local schools, the Hull Wyke Round Table (HWRT) -- a charitable organization in Yorkshire, England -- has sent donors a refund offer letter.

The failed project raised couple of thousand pounds -- including two quid I kicked in.

The project was cancelled after a comprehensive medical review by a local government's public health department in partnership with area hospitals.

But the HWRT's refund letter doesn't mention that -- and it's unclear why not.

The story begins with a February 4 Hull Daily Mail news report about a tragic death: 
A five-year-old boy has died after choking on his food during a school lunch break [yesterday] at Anlaby Primary School.
Via a February 10 follow up story in the same paper:
Hull Wyke Round Table (HWRT) has raised enough money to fit primary schools in Hull and East Riding with life saving anti-choking devices.
The charitable organisation has raised enough money to install LifeVac units in 17 primary schools in west Hull and East Riding. They are now looking to raise more money to install more devices in more schools.
In other words, in less than a week the HWRT apparently came across the LifeVac device, evaluated its efficacy and safety, and raised an unreported amount of money from an unreported source to install it in 17 schools.

If the Hull reporter looked into any of those details, they're not in the article.

In any event, let's call that Round One of the fundraising by the HWRT, an organization which, according to its website, apparently has no fixed address, phone number, or e-mail address. 

The article in the Hull newspaper then reports what I'll call Round Two of the fundraising project and instructs readers how to contribute:
They are now looking to raise more money to install more devices in more schools.

...HWRT member Edd Wheldon said: "I came across this device and we thought we would like to offer to install them in primary schools in our area.

"We just thought it might be something which could help prevent tragedies from happening."

...Wheldon said the supplier had also offered to visit each school interested in having it installed to train staff members. In a letter to the schools' headteachers, Mr Wheldon asked them to confirm whether they would like a unit by February 17.

You can donate to the project online here.
The link in the last sentence leads to the HWRT's fundraising page hosted by the popular crowdfunding platform

Here are the first donations, indicating that the campaign began on February 9, just five days after Hull newspaper reported the choking tragedy.

Based on responses to FOIA requests, on February 9 Edd Weldon circulated the following e-mail to local schools in which he offered a "Wall Mounted (LifeVac) kit to be mounted in your dining area. The supplier has also agreed to come and give you a training session of the product at a central location hosted by Hull Wyke Round Table."

Interested parties were instructed to contact LifeVac representative Eric Banagan "if you have any technical questions."

Click here to download a copy of Wheldon's e-mail to the schools which included three pdfs consisting of about 50 pages of materials that appear to have been provided by LifeVac, including a June 14, 2016 North Devon News article about a nurse who claims she used the device to save the life of a choking woman at a nursing home in Llanybydder, Wales.

Wheldon's letter claimed, "This device is already in 100 schools in the UK and has saved three lives recently."

The same claims were in HWRT's JustGiving fund raising solicitation.

Per my March 7, 2017 item, when I asked Wheldon for details about the three saved lives and a list of the 100 schools, I didn't receive a reply.

Back to the crowdfunding campaign which ended February 28 -- here's the result:

Fast forward two months to this May 15 update on the crowdfunding page informing donors that the project had collapsed:

The link (my yellow highlighting) leads to this unsigned letter -- click here to download a copy -- with no return address or phone number, but provides this e-mail address:

Here's what the HWRT letter claims went wrong:

Presumably the HWRT failed to ask the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for that information before initiating the fundraising project.

And the HWRT doesn't apologize to donors or the schools for failing to perform such minimal due diligence.

It's also unclear why the HWRT finds the MHRA's position to be "disappointing." That is, why would they want to install an unapproved medical device in local schools?

But the letter inexplicably fails to tell donors the real reason the project was derailed.

In response to HWRT's fundraising, the local government East Riding of Yorkshire Council initiated an expert medical review, the results of which were circulated to area schools in the following March newsletter.

Via the newsletter -- click here to download a copy.
(Guidance) has been obtained through the Councils Public Health team, in partnership with Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals (HEY), who have comprehensively reviewed the use of such devices particularly in a paediatric context.

It is recommended at this time that the device is not used until further evidence on suitability for paediatric use is published.

According to the e-mails below, Wheldon was aware of the Council's findings on March 16, two months before the May 15 refund letter. What took his organization so long to offer refunds to me and other donors?

Why didn't the HWRT's refund letter inform donors about the medical review (which, incidentally, is apparently not available via the Council's website)?

What happened to the money the HWRT raised in Round One of the fundraising?

When and how did Edd Wheldon "(come) across the device" as he told the Hull Daily Mail?

And what due diligence did his organization conduct before initiating a project that wasted the time of the schools, local government, and donors, and which presumably resulted in taxpayers paying for the medical review?