Cough It Up

Posted April 17, 2007 at 6:50pm

OK, what’s going on here? Have members of the Capitol Hill community been watching a little too much “Grey’s Anatomy”? Or maybe they’re missing former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), the doc-turned-Senator who was known to arrive on the scene of medical emergencies in just the nick of time. [IMGCAP(1)]

Suddenly, it seems, everyone’s an M.D. At Charlie Palmer Steak on Monday night, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) performed the Heimlich maneuver on a woman who was choking on her steak.

The Congressman’s medical derring-do follows on the heels of the work of John Hart, the spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who, as HOH reported, delivered his own son last week.

But back to Thompson’s more recent hero act: the Congressman was enjoying a quiet dinner at the swank Capitol Hill steakhouse when he noticed a commotion at a nearby table. A woman had jumped up from her table, clearly in distress, the Congressman told HOH, while her dining companion was slumped in the booth. The Congressman promptly swung into action.

“I asked her if she was choking and she indicated she was,” Thompson told HOH. He estimates it took about three or four Heimlich maneuvers to dislodge the misguided food.

After catching her breath, Thompson reports, the woman was fine. It turned out that the choking victim was a visitor from New Jersey who was eating dinner with her daughter, a local law student.

Though the scene was dramatic, for Thompson, it was been there, done that. He recalled how he performed the Heimlich on a choking woman at the Napa Valley Wine Auction event in his district in the mid-1990s. Thompson credits his wife, Janet, a nurse practitioner, with teaching him the technique.

And in a side note, Janet Thompson once herself performed the Heimlich during a speech her husband was giving (“We’re good dinner guests,” the Congressman says).

And aside from its happy ending, Monday night’s story has an only-in-Washington twist. The grateful woman, once composed, offered to buy Thompson’s dinner. But the ever-careful Congressman turned down the generous offer, fearing that the gesture could run afoul of new ethics rules that bar Members from accepting meals from people who work for companies that employ lobbyists.

“I told them they seemed like very nice people, but I didn’t want to share a jail cell with them,” he laughed.

Now that’s versatility — in addition to playing doctor, Thompson also acted as a lawyer.

Pingo Is His Name-O. Ding, ding, ding(o), we have a winner. Last month, HOH brought you the sad tale of the platypus-shaped bootbrush that has become the mascot — and doorstop — for the office of Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.). The poor platypus, a gift from an Australian intern, was without a name, and Farr’s folks appealed to HOH readers to help give the creature a proper title.

After sifting through clever HOH readers’ entries that included “George Brush” (har-har) and “Steve” (after Steve Irwin, the late Aussie icon), Farr’s staff chose “Pingo.”

The Platypus’ godparent is Ethen Van Lieu, a senior software engineer in the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office, who said the image of the door-guarding statue made him think of a guard dog. Dingos are Australian dogs, and Van Lieu combined “dingo” and “platypus” to get “Pingo.”

The prize, of course, was simply honor and glory, which Van Lieu seems content with. “I’ll have to do that,” he mused when asked if he had visited the little fella at his Longworth post.

Global War on Error. House GOP staffers are privately chuckling over a gaffe in the announcement by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the panel’s Democratic leadership was investigating false information in the cases of Jessica Lynch and the late Patrick Tillman.

Democratic staff on the committee sent a hearing notice last week to members of both parties on the committee and their staff contacts announcing an April 24 hearing looking into the spread of false information. “The hearing will focus on the death of Army Ranger Specialist Patrick Tillman in Iraq and the capture and rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch in Afghanistan,” the e-mail read.

The problem is that former NFL player Tillman died in Afghanistan and Lynch was rescued in Iraq, not the other way around. A committee spokeswoman didn’t return a call, and the hearing notice posted on the committee’s Web site had the correct information.

While HOH can understand how easy it would be to transpose the names of the two locations, one would think that you’d be extra-super-duper-careful when you’re talking about spreading false information. Just saying.

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