Friday, August 17, 2012

CDC, National Guard, Illinois agencies awarded millions of tax dollars to Chicago nonprofit that taught unapproved, thoroughly-discredited, potentially-lethal medical treatment

Video clip from 1/19/05 presentation to US Conference of Mayors in which Save-A-Life Foundation founder/president Carol Spizzirri introduces, then lip-kisses and embraces my 85-year-old father (with whom she had a personal relationship). SALF is now reportedly under investigation by the IL Attorney General. According to a January letter from IL State Senator Tim Bivins, Spizzirri celebrated Xmas 2011 at Mullins's home in Palatine. 

From Save-A-Life Foundation in limbo, an October 11, 2009 Chicago Tribune article by staff reporter Lisa Black:
(Carol) Spizzirri launched a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children emergency response techniques, raising at least $8.6 million in federal and state grants for her Save-A-Life Foundation...(Spizzirri) estimates 2 million children took the classes, many of them from the Chicago Public Schools.
If that's accurate - according to a number of records, including an official statement I received from Carol Spizzirri - a generation of Chicago students were taught to perform the Heimlich maneuver on drowning victims, an unapproved treatment that preeminent medical and water safety organizations had already determined was ineffective and potentially lethal since it wastes time and may cause vomiting leading to aspiration.

The millions of public dollars that funded SALF came from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Guard, and numerous Illinois state agencies.

The following is from last year's Washington Post. In parentheses, I've added dates with links to the supporting documents.
(The Heimlich maneuver has) 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 (to revive drowning victims) is lengthy: The American Red Cross (2000); the United States Lifesaving Association (1996); the American Heart Association (2000); the Institute of Medicine (1995); the International Life Saving Federation (1998).
...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.

Via a Cleveland Scene cover story by reporter Thomas Francis that references the IOM's 1995 benchmark report rejecting the use of the Heimlich maneuver to revive drowning victims:
"The Institute of Medicine is the crown jewel of medical intelligentsia in the United States," says (drowning expert and retired Coast Guard Admiral Alan) Steinman. "They looked at this issue and said, 'Bad idea.'"

Former SALF medical director Stanley Zydlo MD at a 2009 book signing (source)

Five years later, SALF's medical director ignored the IOM report and the other organizations.

From Water Rescue Sequence: The Controversial Role of the Heimlich Maneuver (in drowning rescue) the year 2000 article by Pamela Mills-Senn which was the Rosetta Stone for much of my later research:

Since there are no published studies supporting the use of the Heimlich maneuver for drowning rescue, it's unclear what "documented literature" Dr. Zydlo researched.

His time might have been better spent researching SALF's founder/president. 

From Where Did the Save-A-Life Money Go? by Don Bauder in the November 17, 2010 San Diego Reader:
(Carol) Spizzirri was a darling of politicians and bureaucrats, although it was a matter of record that she had been convicted twice for shoplifting. Save-A-Life began raking in money from government grants.

...(Spizzirri) had told (ABC I-Team reporter Chuck Goudie) that she was a registered nurse. But the station reported that the institution from which she had claimed to receive her nursing degree had never given her one. A hospital in which she had claimed to be a transplant nurse said she had been a patient care assistant, which is akin to a candy striper....
...On May 18, 1992 - four months before the fatal accident - Christina filed for an order of protection against her mother...The complaint stated that Spizzirri had struck Christina “on several occasions and threatened her on many occasions.
Per the May 30, 2000 Los Angeles Times, Ellis & Associates, the lifeguard training company discussed in Mills-Senn's article, dumped the Heimlich-for-drowning protocol shortly after her article appeared.

But SALF continued to teach and promote the treatment.

Here's a May 3, 2001 workshop held at the Illinois PTA's annual convention:

A year later, my father told reporter Angela D. Sykora of the Grayslake Review (IL):

SALF executives Rita Mullins (in the red turtleneck) and Carol Spizzirri (seated) with Mike "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown at January 23, 2003 signing ceremony when SALF became a FEMA member organization, US Conference of Mayors annual meeting, Washington, DC. Six years later, as first reported by The Sidebar, FEMA kicked SALF out.

Astoundingly, in January 2003 SALF became a member organization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

My father marked the occasion with a joint letter to FEMA chief Mike Brown and Carol Spizzirri (page down) that included:

In other words, FEMA was fully aware that SALF's training program was putting the public at risk as the agency provided SALF access "to train and educate children and families in basic first aid through the Citizen Corps network of state and local councils."  

Two years later, from SALF's annual "Bridge the Gap" convention in 2005:

Here comes the clincher.

When I started researching my father's career in 2002, I already knew he hadn't held a hospital job since he was fired for misconduct in 1976 by Cincinnati's Jewish Hospital.

But I quickly learned that for decades he's been persona non grata in the medical profession.

Besides his crackpot claims that the Heimlich maneuver can revive drowning victims, stop asthma attacks, and cure cystic fibrosis, the Heimlich Institute conducted a series of notorious offshore experiments in which US and foreign nationals suffering with cancer, Lyme Disease, and AIDS were infected with malaria. (For more details, watch Brian Ross's ABC 20/20 report, Is Dr. Heimlich really a savior?)

My father and SALF's second-in-command, former Palatine, IL mayor Rita Mullins

Sure he has a famous name, but what legitimate organization would want him as a medical adviser?

And what reputable first aid training group would teach the public to perform the Heimlich maneuver on drowning victims, as reported by Pamela Mills-Senn?

I wanted to find out for myself so in early 2004, using a pseudonym, I e-mailed SALF and asked for a position statement.

In a chirpy, solicitous February 8, 2004 e-mail, Carol Spizzirri sent me the following. (Page down to view the entire letter which, incidentally, is littered with grammatical errors.)

Were the CDC, the National Guard, and the Illinois government agencies aware that they were providing millions of dollars to an organization that was teaching and promoting an unapproved, long-discredited medical treatment that might seriously injure or kill people?

Did any of these agencies ever review SALF's training protocols? Did any of them ask the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, or independent medical experts to evaluate SALF's program?

What about the prominent public officials from Illinois like Arne Duncan, Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman John Shimkus, Paul Vallas, Gery Chico, and others who promoted and/or helped fund SALF? Were they even aware what SALF was teaching to students in their state?

In days to come, I'll try to get answers to those questions and will report the results here.


8/20/12 UPDATE: I just sent letters of concern re: SALF's faulty, dangerous training to the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Bureau (which reportedly has been investigating SALF since mid-2010), and to Chicago Public Schools Inspector General James M. Sullivan with whom I filed an investigation request on January 5, 2011. Click the links to view my letters on

This item has been slightly revised.