Queens, NY – Staffers at 5G-a-Month Facility Fail to Do Heimlich on Jewish Grandmother


    Queens, NY – Estelle Itzkowitz survived pancreatic cancer, a near-fatal liver infection and two husbands.
    Nothing could stop the 90-pound Jewish grandmother — until she bit into a kosher hot dog at the Savoy assisted-living facility in Queens.

    She choked to death at lunch, while slow-footed staff failed to perform the Heimlich maneuver in the crucial minutes after the first bite lodged in her windpipe.

    “I thought it was a bad joke when my sister called to tell me,” said Stu Sleppin, Itzkowitz’s heartbroken son, who has filed a wrongful death suit in Queens Supreme Court against the $5,000-a-month luxury residence in Little Neck.
    “Their brochures promised onsite, 24/7 nursing staff, and no one thought to do the Heimlich maneuver?” he asked.

    Itzkowitz had moved back to New York from Florida three weeks earlier. Sleppin, 53, a Manhattan entrepreneur, said his family is angry that the Savoy never acknowledged what happened.
    State public health law requires that personal care aides who work in the dining room must be trained including the Heimlich maneuver.
    A Savoy administrator wrote in Itzkowitz’s chart on March 27: “Estelle was eating a hot dog at lunch and passed out onto the table. She did not make any gagging noises. . . . Heimlich maneuver was performed until EMS got here — nothing dislodged.

    But Marion Duffy, who was having lunch with Itzkowitz that day around 12:35 p.m., said her friend took one bite of the hot dog and began to gag.
    Duffy said she quickly summoned “the pill lady” from the other side of the dining room, who “patted Estelle on the back, kept calling her name and held her hand. That’s about it.”
    Asked if anyone did the Heimlich maneuver while Itzkowitz was choking, Duffy was emphatic with her answer. “Absolutely not. I am positive of that,” she said.

    At 12:45 p.m., nurse Robin Simeone wrote in the incident report, she had been summoned to the dining room. EMS was alerted two minutes later, and Simeone noted she took a slumped, drooling Itzkowitz away in a wheelchair to await the ambulance.
    When paramedics got to Itzkowitz at 12:56 p.m., it was too late. She was not breathing. She had no pulse. Her pupils were “unreactive” and she was cool to the touch, EMS records show. Paramedics performed CPR, but to no avail. When they attempted to insert a breathing tube, they discovered and removed a piece of hot dog from her airway.

    The beloved family matriarch was taken to North Shore Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

    State health officials were alerted to Itzkowitz’s death at the time, as required by law. They did not cite Savoy.
    “According to our records, staff attempted Heimlich and the resident died at the hospital,” state Health Department spokeswoman Beth Goldman said.

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    1. As a paramedic, I would give first hand testimony that assisted living facilities throughout NYC are constantly and consistently guilty of gross negligence. Countless times have I come across a patient with food stuffed in their mouths laying in bed unconscious. Often, I find patients laying in their own waste because the staff is too lazy to clean them. Let’s put it this way, it’s not the cream of the crop nurses that work in these facilities. Whenever you ask a “nurse” what happens, we always get the same answer, “I just came on shift”. It could be 2:45 in the morning, and they just came on shift”

      PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE…If you must put a loved one in a home, let it be one that is out of state, where the care is infinitely better.

    2. You don’t start CPR untill you attempt to open the airway! The Paramedics should have known there was an obstructed airway before they started CPR. Basic ABC’s.

    3. before placing a loved one in any facility check the accredidations. check the inspections. check if there are violations. check with families of other residents.

    4. 1, This was not a nursing home. The nursing homes are forced to maintain certain standards and are always in fear of losing their license. They may not be great but they are better than assisted living.

      2, Ignore the brochure and check recent inspections. Try to understand if the violations found are serious or not, there will always be some findings!

    5. “BASIC ABCs”???

      CPR is what you do for an unconscious choking victim!!

      Then when you medics come, you try to intubate and possibly remove the object.

    6. Dr. Logic, EMT-P,

      I live in Baltimore. It is no better here or probably anywhere else. The facilities don’t work enough on insuring that their patients eat, are reasonably clean, are monitored and on and on and on. And it is tough to do. And getting employees who give a hoot and keep up their motivation to make sure that the patients, in their various mental states live properly is very tough for management/ownership, assuming they really care.

      A major improvement in nursing home/rehabilitive facility/hospital care will only happen if there is a very major societal & governmental ($$) upheaval in how this whole area is dealt with.

    7. You do CPR on an unconscious chocking vic only if the item is dislodged!! If the item is not dislodged then you do abdominal thrusts to try to get the item out.

    8. I can tell you of a personal story like this. A family member of mine, 70 yr old, who had alzheimer’s was in a daycare center (a nursing home just for the day and was home at night with a nurse) that is a block or 2 outside of BP (at that time it was outside now that area is already considered BP).

      They wouldn’t allow the home attendant to be with her during the day, she was basically m ade to wait in the lobby all day.

      One day my family member collapsed in the lunchroom and instead of calling Hatzolah they called 911. It took a Maimonides abulance over 10 minutes to arrive and on the way to the hospital she was pronounced dead.

      We later learned from another perosn at this facility that she was lying there a few minutes before any of the nurses even attempted CPR.

      As a side note, they didn’t even tell the home attendant about it, they just let her sit in the lobby. When the time came to go home, she went to get her and found out that it was already a few hopurs that she is dead.


      I work the “privates” and I see what goes on in these places day in and out. I had a patient in a Nursig Home, Unconscious barley breathing the man had a full seforim schank next to his bed, and some open ones on his table with bookmarks in them. When I asked the nurse what is his normal state she looked @ me and said “oh he’s alawys like this”.


      TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT we rushed him to the hospital only to find out he had a massive infection Boruch Hashem two to 3 days l8r he was talking. If I would have known the family I would have let them have a piece of my mind. Find a different facility or get him home care!!!!

    10. To: Anonymous 12:08

      Have you not heard of the ABC’s of CPR? 1st check (and open)AIRWAYS, then administer/begin BREATHING (if necessary), and finally check CIRCULATION. This is a simple acronym known to those familiar with CPR.

    11. Lets be frank.

      What kind of nursing home gives a frankfurter to a 92 year old woman?

      Isn’t it amazing that she survived the two husbands but not the frank?

    12. Chest compressions are used in place of abdominal thrusts in teh unconscious patient. Heimlich’s purpose is to compress the air behind the obstruction so that pressure forces it out. For unresponsive patients, you do the same thing with chest compressions.. pushing on a chest also compresses the lunkgs, much like Heimlich. Quoting an EMT training book:

      “When a choking victim is found unconscious… begin the steps of CPS by determining unresponsiveness, opening the airway and attempting ventilation. If the first ventilation does not produce visible chest rise, reposition the head and reattempt to ventilate. If both breaths fail to produce visible chest rise, perform 30 chest compressions and then open the airway and look in the mouth.”

    13. Please read the article!! It was NOT a nursing home. It was an assisted Living facility. There is a large difference between the two. A Nursing Home has manditory staffing requirements that include registered nurses and licensed practicle nurses and licensed nurse aides. Assisted living facilities do NOT have these requirements. I am from out of state and run a nursing facility and I can tell you there is a large difference between the two.


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