October 30, 2018

Choking to death on pancakes in an amateur pancake eating contest and why the Heimlich maneuver and mechanical suction didn't work.

I'm reading "A college student choked to death during a pancake-eating contest. Now, her family is suing the school" (WaPo).
When police responded, they discovered [20-year-old Cailin] Nelson’s mouth “was compacted with pancakes almost to her teeth,” the lawsuit said. One officer said the “glob of pancake paste in her airway” was “‘like concrete.'”...

The lawsuit... called Nelson’s death “as foreseeable as it was horrific,” alleging the university is at fault for allowing the pancake-eating contest to happen.... Beyond the “inherent risks” of holding an eating contest with participants who are not professional speed eaters, the lawsuit also pointed out the “particular hazard of pancakes.”

Cooked pancakes, which largely consist of flour and liquid, turn into a “thick glob of paste” when they come into contact with saliva or other liquids, the lawsuit said.... “Once a person’s airway is obstructed by a glob of macerated pancake paste, rescue becomes exponentially more difficult,” the lawsuit said.
Nelson suffered severe brain damage and died "days later."

Should this be the end of amateur eating contests? Should it be the end of all contests where participants get carried away and go for the win without paying attention to what is happening within their own bodies?

65 comments:

tcrosse said...

Should it be the end of all contests where participants get carried away and go for the win without paying attention to what is happening within their own bodies?

That's a way to keep Hillary from running in 2020.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The family has my sympathy.

That said, the lawsuit should be thrown out, and the lawyers involved sanctioned.

JAORE said...

College student implies over 18, i.e. legally an adult. Contest, one assumes, freely entered by adult.

It is sad that she died. The parent's pain must be unbearable. But to sue the school does nothing to bring her back.

And this question! "Should it be the end of all contests where participants get carried away and go for the win without paying attention to what is happening within their own bodies?" Almost all competitions at the very top levels require contestants to push their bodies to the safe limits and beyond.

The law suit is pathetic.

gspencer said...

But died doing what she loved.

Michael K said...

We had a case when I was still in practice with a celebrity dentist in Newport Beach.

A 13 year old girl came in who had had dental work under general anesthesia. Her mouth and throat were full of cotton packs like dentists use all the time but this was hours later.

I managed to get them out and got her breathing but she never woke up.

While she was in ICU, her mother went back to the same dentist and had work done.

He was convicted of murder and got out of prison in 2011.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

What happened to "If it feels good do it" cry of your youth? Stupid is as stupid does. Pick up the dead and wounded and wash down the pavement, then get some breakfast..

iowan2 said...

The government is a very incompetent parent. That means the Government should never attempt parenting.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

eating: chew .swallow. breathe... repeat.

They don't teach the basics in high school anymore.

Fernandistein said...

Only outlaws will eat pancakes quickly.

Fernandistein said...

True or false?

Fernandistein said...

We have a bowl which prevents woofing* the food. They should use one of those.

*"Don't Crush That Dwarf"

Cath said...

Not that it's germane to this lawsuit, but this student's father was a police officer who was killed in the Sept 11 attacks. It's a lot of tragedy for one family. (This may be mentioned in the WaPo article, I don't know - I can't get thru the paywall)

Jill said...

Sadly, her father was a Port Authority officer killed during 9/11. This family has been struck hard.

Sacramento radio station KDND-FM had a water drinking contest that killed a woman. The wrongful death lawsuit against them was successful.

Gordon Scott said...

Hang on...her mouth was full of pancakes when the police arrived? Did no one try to clear her mouth before that? There must have been a crowd. Was no one in the crowd capable of basic CPR?

Step one: clear the airway

Leland said...

I thought I would be the lone voice in saying this is sad, but I hope we wouldn't end competition because of these odd risks. Certainly, I'm for ending pancake eating competitions, but because they're better competitions even with food.

People unfortunately overdue all sorts of things. People still die from exercising too hard and not paying attention to their body. If we banned competitions for these few unfortunate events, I don't think we as a society or species would be better off.

Michael K said...

People unfortunately overdue all sorts of things

Yup and some of them are fatal, too.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Until recently I would add some variety to my very lame recreational swimming by going about as far as I could underwater. Maybe half of a 25 meter length. Then my wife googled something: people drown this way, especially when they set a goal for themselves... I'll just go to the edge of the pool. The people who drown are disproportionately good swimmers. My point is that the brain sets a goal, and to an amazing extent people will stick to their goal even at the risk of death. This must be part of what distinguishes homo sapiens; some make it, and contribute to the gene pool, others don't. Banning stupidity contests? Where will it end?

Fernandistein said...

Step one: clear the airway

Step one is don't 'woof' your food. It's right there on the record.

Darrell said...

Sue Aunt Jemima back to the Stone Age.

Fernandistein said...

And stay hydrated. But that's not on the record because nobody said "hydrated" back then.

I hope to die from death by misadventure before I get too old to enjoy misadventures because they hurt.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Jill said...

Sacramento radio station KDND-FM had a water drinking contest that killed a woman. The wrongful death lawsuit against them was successful.

That seems fundamentally different. Drinking a large amount of water will, on its own, kill you, even if you don't do it "wrong". Dilute your blood too much, without adding electrolytes, and all sorts of things stop working.

Eating a large number of pancakes won't kill you, unless you do it wrong.

Johnathan Birks said...

College was supposed to be an educational experience. Leave eating to the professionals.

tcrosse said...

Stick to waffles.

SayAahh said...

Pancake packaging from now on must carry a black box warning about the hazards of pancake woofing.
Where is Obama when we need him?

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

Sorry about the woman’s death and I think the lawsuit is wrong but, let’s face it, eating contests are grotesque and morally wrong in a way that’s not immediately evident to the casual observer. Sort of the Kardashians or NYT editorial of novelty sport. But that’s just me airing my suppressed inner progscold.

Fernandistein said...

"Stick together is what good waffles do."

Sacred Heart University

There but for the god of Grace go I.

Trumpit said...

There should be a warning on the pancake mix box: Pancakes can kill you. It's called "batter woman syndrome." Do your own research.

Unknown said...

THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I WANT TO DIE

hawkeyedjb said...

In the end, a high-carb diet will get you.

Known Unknown said...

Pancakes probably not the food of choice for eating contests. Pasta would be bad, too.

Stick to the french fries or wings or hot dogs -- something that doesn't turn to goo so quickly.

Pies are okay because they are mostly filling.

Fernandistein said...

From "Men'sHealth": Why Laughing at Other People’s Pain Is Healthy

It’s a normal human response, and it makes you feel superior.

Actually the stupid article said it was normal as long as you felt guilty; guilty about being normal, I 'spose, something I don't have to worry about.

Rick Turley said...

Peter Heimlich thinks his famous father is a fraud and has spent an inordinate amount of time and effort toward proving it.

"In Spring 2002, my wife Karen and I began researching the career of my father, Dr. Henry J. Heimlich of Cincinnati, famous for the "Heimlich maneuver" choking rescue method. To our astonishment, we inadvertently uncovered a wide-ranging, unseen 50-year history of fraud.

"Since Spring 2003, our research and my outreach to journalists have been the basis for scores of mainstream print and broadcast media reports which exposed my father as a remarkable -- and dangerous -- charlatan."

http://medfraud.info/

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

I was also surprised no one attempted to save her. The article I read in the NYPost said a nursing student caught her and gently put her down, no mention of any effort to clear her mouth. That none of these college students had the common sense to make even a rudimentary attempt at first aid is pathetic.

SeanF said...

Beyond the “inherent risks” of holding an eating contest with participants who are not professional speed eaters...

Well, that would pretty much apply to all amateur contests, wouldn't it?

Roughcoat said...

Heimlich a fraud? I don't understand. I had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on myself, I was choking and threw myself over the back of a chair, just like you're supposed to do, and the piece of food that was choking me popped right out, just like I was told it would. The Heimlich maneuver saved my life.

Char Char Binks said...

I knew this would happen eventually. Eating contests are stupid, "professional" or not.

Bay Area Guy said...

"Once a person’s airway is obstructed by a glob of macerated pancake paste, rescue becomes exponentially more difficult,”

I hate when that happens. We really need a consumption tax on macerated pancake paste.

Kevin said...

I definitely think it's the end of pancake eating contests. This problem was probably foreseeable and therefore actionable. And if it wasn't prior, it is now.

Wilbur said...

Didn't they have the entrants sign a waiver of liability? Geez, that Law 101.

mockturtle said...

Gspencer observes: But died doing what she loved.

Wasn't that also said of Mama Cass?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Should this be the end of amateur eating contests?

Eating contests are obscene and should be ended. Eating and gorging on enormous quantities of food is not only a waste of food, it is (IMO) morally wrong when there are real people in the world who do not have enough food to eat. Flaunting ostentatious wealth and wasting of abundance never goes over well.

Find something else to be competitive about.

RigelDog said...

Until recently I would add some variety to my very lame recreational swimming by going about as far as I could underwater. Maybe half of a 25 meter length. Then my wife googled something: people drown this way, especially when they set a goal for themselves. }}}

This is an important safety rule that almost no one knows. If you try to force yourself to stay underwater and swim some distance, ignoring your body's internal scream that you need to breathe, you can pass out suddenly. That internal scream to breathe is triggered by build-up of carbon dioxide in your blood. Learned this from son's lifeguard training.

William said...

The human tragedy is real, but unfortunately it's subsumed under the comedy of a pancake eating contest. So full of life and promise and pancakes, but now she's gone.......Still, it's a better, nobler death than auto erotic asphyxiation. Not that you could in any way comfort the bereaved with such words.

Freeman Hunt said...

This is an important safety rule that almost no one knows. If you try to force yourself to stay underwater and swim some distance, ignoring your body's internal scream that you need to breathe, you can pass out suddenly.

Yikes! I certainly didn't know it. I do that just about every time I go swimming. No longer.

Howard said...

http://www.shallowwaterblackoutprevention.org/how-it-happens/

A couple years ago we quit doing that at the end of our Masters Swimming (https://www.usms.org/) workout when a guy down in So Cal blacked out trying to complete 50-yards under water. Fortunately, he was rescued immediately with no harm done.

Fred Drinkwater said...

It's a type of "shallow water blackout". My brother once passed out after swimming 40 meters or so. He was immediately rescued but spent two days in hospital because. (I was told) this trauma really messed with his blood chemistry. Don't hyperventilate before underwater swimming. Don't skydive alone.
Your PSA for today.

Greg P said...

Should this be the end of amateur eating contests? Should it be the end of all contests where participants get carried away and go for the win without paying attention to what is happening within their own bodies?

No, and no.

Should this be the end of lawsuits by people complaining that someone was allowed to chose to do something dangerous?

Hell yes.

I'm sad and sorry she died. Her choices, her actions, her life.

Her problem

No one else

Mark said...

If it was foreseeable to the school, it was foreseeable to the student and her family. By nevertheless continuing, the student contestant assumed the risk.

Michael K said...

Heimlich also invented a valve for chest tubes that works well and is useful especially for transporting patients,

Fred Drinkwater said...

Skydive?
Skindive.
(When I'm Emperor, Autocorrect shall be the sole authority for determining the course of comment threads. Sort of like how we used to flip coins during long bike rides to determine our route.)

Caligula said...

No one has sued Instagram for encouraging unreasonable risk-taking when taking selfies?

Yancey Ward said...

Lloyd Robertson wrote:

"Then my wife googled something: people drown this way, especially when they set a goal for themselves... I'll just go to the edge of the pool. The people who drown are disproportionately good swimmers."

Yes- you can pass out while doing this, and you can't really know when that point will be reached, and it is often without any warning at all. Even worse, that end point of consciousness can and will change as you age. I took a week long swimming lesson when I was a freshman in college to qualify as a student lifeguard, and this was basically lesson #1- don't fuck around underwater unless it is literally life and death. I don't swim much any longer, but I do notice people doing what you described all the time- swimming many, many meters underwater, and it makes me nervous for them.

Yancey Ward said...

And I see I was late to the show with my comment.

mikeski said...

Fred Drinkwater said...
Don't skydive alone. Your PSA for today.

Fred Drinkwater said...
Skydive?
Skindive.
(When I'm Emperor, Autocorrect shall be the sole authority for determining the course of comment threads.


I was wondering about skydiving alone. Who's flying the plane?

n.n said...

A kind of cement that is served with syrup and butter.

walter said...

"Protopappas operated a high-volume, high-profile dental practice in Costa Mesa until he was arrested in 1983 after two women and a 13-year-old girl died after they were put under anesthesia while under Protopappas’ care."

Hey..you cut a few corners when it gets busy...but 3 strikes yer out.

“He always was sorry about his victims. He never intended to kill anybody.”

Shit happens..

Known Unknown said...

"Gspencer observes: But died doing what she loved."

Local man died doing what he hated.

Gospace said...

Rick Turley said...
Peter Heimlich thinks his famous father is a fraud and has spent an inordinate amount of time and effort toward proving it.


Glanced over the link. I'll read it all later.

BUT: The Heimlich maneuver works. Really well. I watched a hard candy shoot across the room my son had been busy choking on. Used it successfully two other times, but my son was the first. Maybe the rest of his research was fraud, but it's really tough to argue what he's most known for, the Heimlich Maneuver, is fraud. Because it works.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

that position as 'brand ambassador' for IHOP is now 'down the tubes'

cubanbob said...

I still don't know one goes from amatuer eater to professional eater. Is there an apprenticeship program for this?

Marcus said...

Once, while on a restaurant cooking line, I tried to gobble a grilled cheese sandwich. I did this without any liquid. I started to choke and, in sign language, pleaded with my fellow chef to do the Heimlich on me. He did. I'm still here. It saved me as far as I am concerned. Years later my father did the same to my mother while she was choking and he cracked two of his ribs. He was a strong man.

As to going unconscious while swimming long distances under water: wow. I trained myself as a youth to swim more than the length of the Olympic-sized pool underwater. I remember the NEED to breathe. There but for the Grace of God.

The Crack Emcee said...


I actually have a problem where, sometimes, I swallow wrong and my airway becomes blocked - all by itself. I almost choked on the front lawn, while bringing in some groceries, about two weeks ago. It's happened before, and the Heimlich maneuver doesn't work (I have to violently suck in air until my chest bursts, each time widening the opening of my throat as much as possible, while it's trying to stay closed). I'll be getting it checked soon because having it hanging out there, waiting for me, is getting kind of scary.

William said...

There's nothing wrong or dangerous about pancake eating contests. It's the time frame that's off. Pancake eating is a marathon and not a sprint. I think the person who consumes the most pancakes over the course of a lifetime is one of the great winners in life's sad games. I have particular respect for those in the blueberry event, but all pancakes are worthy of respect. Those who consume the most are definitely in the winners' circle.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

I almost choked on the front lawn

me too-- but the backyard went down no problem

BlogDog said...

Mrs. Butterworth could not be reached for comment.