Today I almost died.
Well...as with anything involving me, there was a humorous turn to the whole thing; but, yes....I almost died today.
I was just taking the second bite of a leftover St. Patrick's Day corned beef sandwich when I felt a chunk of meat slide past my tongue and down my throat. Covered in mustard and fatty grease I figured it would happily slosh its way to my stomach.
But it didn't.
I felt it stop just behind my Adam's Apple. I swallowed once, then again a little harder. Nothing happened. I felt sweat break out immediately and a pounding headache. It was just past the epiglottis and in the esophagus; so, I could breathe although in gagging breaths. Without a word to my friend sitting with me I bolted out the door to the mens' room. I tried dislodging it myself. Still, no luck.
My next thought was that I needed help in dislodging it and security was the next best chance. You'd have to know what some of our security team looks like to really appreciate the added panic this brought. All the way there I kept praying I would get one of the guards capable enough to use the Heimlich Maneuver on me and not one of the guards whose highest level of physical exertion was pushing a pen. To my relief I got to the security desk to find the 6 foot tall frame of our large and very healthy young black security guard.
Remembering what I had learned about the Heimlich I stood in front of the desk making the choking handsign; flailing my hands back and forth from my throat.
"Hey, Jack. What's up?" He asked, not even really looking up from his desk.
"Choking!" I croaked.
Since I didn't want to make a mess on the lobby floor I went out the door with the guard behind me. As I braced myself he wrapped his arms around me and placed his balled fist below my sternum.
Knowing the force he would have to exert, just as he tightened his hug around me he leaned over and asked, "You ready?" I nodded and with what seemed like no effort on his part I was lifted almost a half foot off the ground. Because the food was past the tracheae the forced air did nothing to move the blockage.
"Go to the clinic and I'll call 911!"
I made it to the clinic and they rushed me into an exam room. First they tried a few blows to my back; no luck. Then one of the nurses there handed me a cup of water. I was afraid that if I tried that a gag reflex could force the meat up and block of my airway. With the paramedics en route I decided to wait for the guys with the tools to take care of it more effectively. I took deep, slow breaths and tried to calm myself; there was no need to let panic take over. I was breathing which beat the alternative.
In the time it took the paramedics to arrive the recptionist, a friend of mine, had pulled my chart. She looked at it and said, Jack, it says here that you're 44. That isn't right, is it?"
The nurse took a look over her shoulder and said, "Look at his date of birth. He's 46; almost 47......well," With a wink "Maybe!"
I had a life threatening piece of meat stuck in my throat and she was making jokes!
Just as the paramedics stepped through the front door of the clinic I felt the piece of meat slip loose and I could breathe easily again. They didn't even have to touch me. Fifteen minuets of panic and pain; not the best way to spend a lunch break but, again, it did beat the alternative.
A friend of mine and I were talking about it afterwards and I asked, "Of all the 2,000 that work there would it have been really sad or really funny that I would die on the job?!"
Neither of us could really answer it!