Thursday, June 30, 2011

How I helped right a resolution in the Louisiana House of Representatives

To Heimlich of Not?, Part II (re: the late Angela Henley), KTVO, Kirkland MO, 11/16/05

A few weeks ago, my Google News alert steered me to this line item from a long list of pending state business published in the Advocate, the daily paper in Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana:
HCR106 Extols the benefits of the Heimlich maneuver and encourages schools to teach this lifesaving technique.
At the legislature's website, I learned that HCR106 was a resolution introduced by Rep. Frank A. Hoffman, who represents District 15 which is in NE Louisiana. Click here to read the original version of the resolution.

Rep. Frank A. Hoffman
This caught my eye:

I recognized the 50,000 statistic and assumed it originated from the Heimlich Institute. I don't know how many choking victims have been saved by the Heimlich maneuver and I don't know where that 50,000 number originated. (Any statisticians out there?)

But according to this recent Washington Post article by reporter Tom Jackman, the tally for drowning victims is decidedly in the red:
The Heimlich maneuver became famous as a way for people to dislodge a foreign object from a choking person’s airway. But it’s been utterly discredited as a way of rescuing a person who is drowning, and can actually do serious harm to someone who has just been pulled from the water, numerous experts say.

...The list of experts who reject the Heimlich maneuver is lengthy: The American Red Cross; the United States Lifesaving Association; the American Heart Association; the Institute of Medicine; the International Life Saving Federation and many experienced doctors and academics have strongly inveighed against doing “abdominal thrusts” for drowning victims.

...In Tampa, which has one of the highest drowning rates in the country, Dr. James Orlowski said he has documented nearly 40 cases where rescuers performing the Heimlich maneuver have caused complications for the victim. Orlowski is chief of pediatrics and pediatric intensive care at University Community Hospital in Tampa.
So I e-mailed the WaPo article and other information to Rep. Hoffman, including Some of the Victims, my web page that compiles a half-dozen young people who died in drowning events after having had the Heimlich maneuver (a/k/a abdominal thrusts) performed on them.

What followed was a friendly and productive first-name basis correspondence with Frank.

Sorry, I mean Rep. Hoffman.

Seriously, he responded immediately to my initial e-mail and expressed his appreciation that I'd reached out. He was very interested in learning more and wanted to get it right.

And I'm not even a constituent.

I shared with him the WaPo article and this compilation of statements from medical and water safety organizations about the dangers of doing the Heimlich maneuver on drowning victims.

Rep. Hoffman had been unaware of these concerns, but he assured me he took the matter seriously, promised to promptly review the information, and that he'd make any appropriate changes to the resolution.

Via this June 22 Senate floor amendment, he did just that: 

Click here or page down to read the final version of the Heimlich resolution, now scrubbed of any mention of drowning.

The results of my participation? Two words were scrubbed from the original draft.

Was I pleased? You better believe it.

That's why I posted this item, to say thank you to Rep. Hoffman.

Sorry, I mean Frank.

HCR106 Final Enrolled version, Louisiana House of Representatives (June 22, 2011)