May 26, 2015

Chain email offers bogus advice on surviving a heart attack

Medical LogoAn email is being forwarded around from Iowans to their loved ones that claims to contain advice about how to survive a heart attack if you’re alone.

One expert says the email offers terrible advice. It claims you should cough, hard, with each breath until help arrives.

Dr. Shikar Saxena, a cardiologist in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says it’s best to delete that email and try to forget the false remedy.

“That is absolutely ludicrous to say that somebody who’s alone who’s having a heart attack can cough and essentially save their life,” Dr. Saxena says. “You only have about ten seconds, if you’re truly having arrhythmia, before you’re going to pass out from it.”

He says that valuable time would be much better spent getting to a phone and calling 911. Saxena explains the likely origins of the well-meaning but invalid email.

“When we have patients who have cardiac arrest or arrhythmias and we see them in the hospital, we tell them sometimes to cough and very rarely can we get them out of this arrhythmia,” Dr. Saxena says, “so that’s where this all started from.”

The subject line in the email is: “How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone,” and it’s been floating around cyberspace for years but it’s found new life in the past few weeks.

Shikar is a cardiologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.



Study: Iowa fails kids with school breakfast/lunch programs

School BreakfastIowa placed near the very bottom of a new study ranking the states for the percentage of low-income students who take part in government-funded school breakfast and lunch programs.

Crystal FitzSimons, spokeswoman for the Food Research and Action Center, says Iowa placed 48th on the annual survey.

“There’s about 72,000 low-income students in Iowa who participate in the school breakfast program and that’s compared to about 178,000 low-income students who participate in the school lunch program,” FitzSimons says. “Iowa’s serving about 40 low-income students breakfast for every 100 that they serve lunch.”

Nationally, more than 11-million low-income kids are receiving free or reduced-price school breakfast. She says Iowa’s numbers are growing, but there’s much progress to be made. The report shows the number of Iowa kids who eat free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school has grown by only 2.2% in the past five years.

“There’s a lot of families that are struggling to put food on the table,” FitzSimons says. “Families who rely on free and reduced-price school lunch often would really benefit from having access to breakfast as well. The challenge with the school breakfast program is that it’s often run before the school day starts so kids have to get to school early in order to participate.”

Given commute times and bus schedules, the hour of day often makes it difficult for a child to get to school early enough to take part. Some schools have moved breakfast into the classroom, making it part of the school day, and FitzSimons says that seems to be working.

“States that are having an easier time feeding low-income children breakfast are doing those kinds of models,” FitzSimons says. “They’re delivering breakfast in the classroom, they have grab-and-go breakfasts where kids can grab breakfast when they get off the bus and take it into the classroom or eat it on their way to class and those strategies really do increase participation in the school breakfast program.”

Research shows good nutrition, and eating breakfast in particular, is important for cognitive functioning and academic success.

The survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia ranked Iowa 48th, only ahead of Nebraska, New Hampshire and Utah. The top performers are: West Virginia, New Mexico and Washington D.C.

The Food Research and Action Center is a national non-profit anti-hunger organization that does research, advocacy and policy work to increase families’ access to federal nutrition programs.



Deaths of infants leads to warning about sleeping with babies

HOME-Crib-safetyParents are being warned about the dangers of sharing a bed with babies following the apparent accidental suffocation deaths of three infants within the last week in Des Moines. In all three cases, a parent had been sleeping with the child in their bed and woke to find the baby wasn’t breathing.

Janna Day, with the group Safe Kids Iowa, warns against the practice of “co-sleeping.” She says an infant can easily suffocate when their mouth and nose are covered by a loose blanket or pillow. “And a smothering incident could occur if, unfortunately, one of the parents or caregivers actually rolled onto the child,” Day says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a baby should be placed in its own sleeping area, such as a bassinet or crib. Day says it should only include a mattress with a tight-fitting sheet. “We want to put that baby down on their back and we also want to make sure there is nothing extra in the crib or bassinet with the baby, meaning we don’t want any extra blankets or stuffed animals,” Day says.

The Polk County medical examiner is still reviewing the recent infant deaths in Des Moines and has not determined an official cause of death in any of the cases.

Branstad urging landfills to accept ‘millions of dead birds’ hit by flu epidemic

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad said today that Iowa landfills should not take advantage of a bad situation and “gouge” poultry operations hit with bird flu with exorbitant landfill fees.

“We do have millions of dead birds that need to be disposed of,” Branstad said this morning during his weekly news conference. “And we want to dispose of them in an appropriate and correct way.”

Branstad and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack talked about the issue by phone on Friday. Bill Northey, the state’s ag secretary, and the head of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have sent a letter to the state’s landfills, explaining the dead chickens and turkeys are being properly prepared for burial. Branstad is appealing to landfill operators to be “reasonable and fair” in determining the appropriate fees for accepting the birds.

“We want them to be compensated fairly, but it’s not appropriate to gouge people when you have a disaster situation like this,” Branstad said.

Branstad has asked for a federal disaster declaration from the USDA., but Ag Secretary Vilsack says the loans that would be made available through that action actually have higher interest rates than would be available from other lenders. Branstad said he’s concerned about the job losses at the facilities which have been hit by bird flu as well as the steep decline in Iowa poultry production.

“This is a significant loss that we’re very concerned about and the impact on our economy could be something that at this point we don’t know how great, but we’re already beginning to see its impact,” Branstad told reporters today.

AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference, 28:00

The USDA does have an “indemnity” fund that will pay poultry producers for the “fair market value” of the birds that have to be killed. Federal payments will also cover the “reasonable costs” of sanitizing facilities where bird flu has been found.


ISU coach discusses his family’s fight with Alzheimer’s

Paul Rhoads (file photo)

Paul Rhoads (file photo)

The battle against Alzheimer’s disease is personal for Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads. The coach was in West Des Moines today to promote this summer’s Ride to Remember, a motorcycle ride through central Iowa that raises money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

The disease claimed the life of Rhoads’ mother, Mary, nearly four years ago. “We lost her back in July of 2011,” Rhoads said. “She was afflicted with Alzheimer’s for well over 10 years. That’s a long time to suffer with this horrible disease, a disease for which there is no cure.”

This year’s Ride to Remember will begin outside of Jack Trice Stadium on Sunday, June 21. This is the 6th year for the ride.

Rhoads says the Alzheimer’s Association not only raises funds for research but also helps the family members and care givers who are also affected by the disease. “My father was the primary caregiver for my mom…and that’s the person you start to worry about equally,” Rhoads said. “Is something going to happen to them? Is it going to be too much burden for them?”

Rhoads says the Ride to Remember is a chance to meet other people who have or had a family member afflicted by the disease. “You’re there to support the fight against Alzheimer’s and everybody has a story,” Rhoads said. “There’s crying and laughing…and honestly, to cope with the disease, it takes both.”

This year’s date for the event coincides with Fathers Day. Registration and a barbecue will begin at noon. The ride is expected to begin at 2:00 p.m.

Stop gap plan to keep MHIs open ’til mid-December clears committee

David Heaton

David Heaton

A Republican lawmaker who negotiated an agreement with the governor to delay the closings of the Mental Health Institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda is defending the proposal. Representative Dave Heaton is getting push back from critics who say legislators should do more to fight the governor’s plan to close the two facilities.

“I’m trying to keep the lights on at the MHIs in those two communities,” Heaton says.

Heaton, who is from Mount Pleasant, says without his proposed compromise, the governor will use his veto power to reject any bid to keep the facilities open past June 30.

“All this legislation that they say, ‘Why didn’t you bring this bill to the floor, Representative Heaton?’ Well, because what good would it have done?” he says.

Critics say the public is behind the effort to keep the facilities open, as a recent poll found 68 percent of those surveyed opposed Governor Branstad’s plan to close the Mental Health Institutes in southern Iowa. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee endorsed Heaton’s alternative that would delay closure of the facilities ’til December 15, in hopes of landing private buyers during the extra five-and-a-half months. That alternative is tentatively attached to the budget bill that will outline the legislature’s spending for the Department of Human Services, which oversees the state’s four Mental Health Institutes. The entire budget bill is now eligible for debate in the 100-member Iowa House.

Proposed tax credit for stations installing call buttons so disabled motorists can refuel

Bill Dotzler

Bill Dotzler

Two Senate committees have approved a $500 tax credit for gas stations that install devices that let disabled motorists summon a station employee to pump their gas. The legislation would not require all Iowa gas stations to install “refueling assistance devices” on pumps, but any station upgrading its equipment would have to do so. Stations with just one employee would not have to comply.

Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says having a specially equipped vehicle that allows a disabled person to drive isn’t enough if they can’t fill the vehicle with gas.

“They’re kind of isolated and it’s a real problem,” Dotzler says.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, Democrat from Iowa City, says this is a “reasonable approach” to a growing concern.

“There’s like 760,000 Baby Boomers in Iowa and I think increasingly people are going to need assistance if they’re going to be independent and able to drive their cars in old age,” Bolkcom says.

Senator Rita Hart, a Democrat from Wheatland, worked on similar legislation that passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House. She says changes in the bill may make it “more palatable.”

“We’ve really tried to work with all the stakeholders and tried to come up with something that will work in the business world, but will truly make a difference to disabled people,” Hart says.

The bill passed the Senate Ways and Means tax-writing Committee today on a 12-2 vote. Senator Michael Breitbach, a Republican from Strawberry Point who voted against the bill, says convenience stores with two employees will find it difficult to comply.

“You’d have to take one person out of the kitchen if they’re preparing food, deep fat fryer going, they’d have to leave that station to go run the cash register and the other person would have to go outside,” he says.

Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, was the other “no” vote in committee.

“When you start this with gas stations, are we also going to have clothing stores bringing product out and receiving payment? Are we going to have Walmart getting calls from handicapped spots in the parking lot?” Schultz says. “This bill wouldn’t require that, but this bill opens up the door to something that I think is up to the business owner to attract business or provide additional services and, in fact, in our small towns I see people doing this already.”

The bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee last week by a unanimous vote. It is now eligible for debate in the full Senate.