Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I Almost Choked to Death. Alone

What to do if you're by yourself and choking

  • My throat still hurts.
  • I'm still scared.
  • And I don't know whether or not to tell my family.
  • But I came within seconds of choking to death last night.
  • Alone. That's the lede. I can't bury it.
  • I used the word "bury" on purpose.
  • Lede is journalism jargon for, "The bottom line."
If you want the first-aid, bottom line, choking tips from experts, scroll down.

  • I made spaghetti. Thought: "Add cucumber. Make it more healthy."
  • Diced a cucumber.
  • Added diced cukes to the noodles.
  • Sat down to eat.
  • And type on my computer in between chomps.
  • Did that slurp-the-spaghetti-noodle thing.
  • You know, suck-slurp in a mouthful of noodles.
  • Suddenly I couldn't breathe.
  • Unknowingly, a slice of cucumber hiding in the noodles slurped into the back of my mouth like a cork on a bottle.
  • A shock wave of total fear overcame me.
  • When I was a teen, a dried apricot once flew into the back of my throat, as I walked down some stairs.
  • The apricot blocked my air path completely.
  • Somehow, in seconds of desperate clawing, I got my whole hand into my mouth and ripped the apricot out.
  • My parents were there, then, watching.
  • It's taken me many decades to eat a dried apricot, again.
  • Only this year in fact.
  • So, last night, I knew instantly I was in serious trouble.
  • Something was lodged in my throat.
  • This time, I was alone.
  • No help around.
In the next six seconds, all this happened:
  • I tried to hold still, choking, though.
  • Walked three steps to the kitchen sink, choking.
  • Debated dialing 9-1-1, choking.
  • Started to blackout, choking.
  • I mean, I saw stars, and blackness.
  • Experienced more fear than I've ever known.
  • Felt regret at being unable to say goodbye to my Wingman, and tell him I love him.
  • Realized I was about 4 seconds from being found on the kitchen floor...days later? By whom?
  • Decided I had one chance to use my fingers to rip out whatever blocked my windpipe.
  • Or die.
  • Before I could dial 9-1-1.
  • I gave one, huge push-cough-attempt as I frantically used my fingers to rip away at the food in my throat.
  • My stomach pressed against the ledge of the kitchen counter.

A large piece of cucumber flew out:

Choked on this. About 2-inches across.

It's gross to look at, now.
This cucumber piece was hiding in the noodles I slurp-sucked in.
My hands are large.
They provide scale.
That's about 2-inches across of "healthy."

  • Spent the next hour shaken by a mixture of adrenaline, fear, relief, shame, guilt.
  • Should've been more careful. Done this instead of that, etc.
  • Sipped some warm soup.
  • Because my throat hurt.
  • And I wanted to see if I could still swallow.
  • I've not eaten since.
  • And, when I do, it will be only soup for a while.
  • I probably came within a few seconds of dying.
  • Like 3-to-4 seconds, not 10 or 20.
  • Alone.
  • In fear.
  • There was no white light.
  • There were stars you see like when you're light-headed.
  • And blackness.
  • My vision going out.
Here is what Dr. Oz says you should do if you're choking, and alone:

Dr. Oz tips for "you're choking, now what?"

Here is what the Mayo Clinic says:

Choking First Aid. Source: Mayo Clinic

  • If choking, and you have enough air in your lungs, do an immediate, violent cough.
  • The hardest push-out cough you can do.
  • If that doesn't work, try the Heimlich maneuver selfie above. Fast!
  • Have a 9-1-1 one-button option on speed dial.
  • But you probably will not have time to press it.
  • You likely face a choice: try to save yourself or die trying.
  • Watch the tips above, now.
  • Practice them. As a family.
  • Because when it really happens, you only have seconds.
If you ever, ever see someone jump up, holding their throat, it's the real deal.

Call 9-1-1 and know how to dislodge whatever's stuck in their craw.

I saved someone's life at work once like this.

Last night, someone saved mine.

I'm not sure it was me.

Perhaps my past experience?

Fear (or shame) of dying like that?

Something guided me to the kitchen sink vs. taking time to dial 9-1-1.

It was either/or...not both.

I'm alive to blog about it.

I don't know why.

Update - Mayo Clinic tips say dial 9-1-1, first:
"To perform abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) on yourself:

First, if you're alone and choking and you have a landline phone, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

"Place a fist slightly above your navel.

"Grasp your fist with the other hand and bend over a hard surface — a countertop or chair will do.

Shove your fist inward and upward."

I have one more thought.

Unlock your door, if possible, before passing out.

Twitter: @schwartznow
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