Photo Credit: Adam Pieniazek
The Incident Itself
I never would have believed yesterday that by the end of the day, I would be getting emergency medical help! At the end of a perfect Sunday, we were watching the Yankees beat the Angels and peacefully topping off our weekend. I had plans to read a little and just relax. Sometimes life has other plans.
While I was trying to catch the dramatic end, I started to notice Bob was coughing – quite loudly I might add but unlike Ray from Everybody Loves Raymond, I refrained from turning up the volume on the TV! Apparently he had gone into the bathroom and taken an aspirin and somehow it had gone down the wrong way. Somehow he was choking on it! It happens to him sometimes (I know – I should be a nurse) and I wasn’t getting too alarmed about it except that he just kept going and going!
Finally (I know – how compassionate) I said ‘are you okay – do you need some help?’ He was standing in the bathroom with the door open, gripping the sink, coughing and gagging big time. He gasped out ‘I can’t breathe’. Well, I was thinking to myself ‘yes you can breathe if you can talk’ but it really isn’t polite to argue with a gagging man! He blurts out again ‘call someone – get HELP’. I looked at him I guess a little increduously and said ‘really – do you think that’s necessary?’ I was just sure the pill was going to cough itself right back up any second!
Before I went to grab the phone though, I thought I’d try and help him out a bit and quickly slid in behind him, put my arms around him from the back and jerked up – I was TRYING to do the Heimlich maneuver but he was NOT having any of it! So much for my nursing moves. He shoved me aside and was still coughing and gagging something fierce and says – this time MUCH more frantically – ‘go CALL someone’. Well, I assumed since we live alone here in town and no one else is around, he meant 911!
So I reluctantly called 911 – I only say reluctantly because I was still thinking we could handle this. I went to get him some water and he was able to swallow that. I couldn’t help but think that was a GOOD sign and he could not really be choking – although again, I did not want to point out technicalities at this particular moment. And what if I was totally WRONG?
‘Hello – 911 – what’s your emergency?’ Now we’re in it! ‘Hi – I’m calling because my husband is choking.’ I know I sounded really, really calm and she seemed a bit surprised by that. She asked me all the particulars of course – though I had to ask myself if he truly WERE choking, what difference did his age and all these details make? Shouldn’t they just be dispatching an aid car like NOW?
Anyhow – she’s asking me questions and Bob is still hacking and gagging beside me and she says that the car is on the way. About this time, Bob is getting totally fed up with everything (can’t say that I blame him) and blurts out in a very NON-choking voice ‘where the hell are they? How long does it take to get a damned car up here?’
‘Hmmmm’ – I’m pretty sure that’s what the dispatcher said in my ear. ‘Doesn’t sound like he’s really choking if he can talk…..oh well – they should be there any minute.’ Click. Thankfully, at least I did not get call waiting (I actually did once before – the joys of living in a small town).
Within minutes, the fellows showed up – aid car and fire truck. We got the star treatment. They had the gurney on the porch in seconds and as I’d already opened the door, I was surrounded by 3 nice young men looking worriedly at my husband who just continued to gag and cough. One of the fellows, sensing that this was not a choking in the true sense of the word, told the other fellows to leave the gurney for now and then they proceeded to ask my husband who is still gagging and coughing up a storm what’s happening.
Well, I’m no genius, but I think the term would be gagging and coughing! By now, he has tears running down his face and is just getting worse by the moment because he can’t stop gagging and coughing. He is drinking water, and the fellows note that this is probably not a serious choking since he is able to swallow water, saliva, etc. Then they ask Bob if he wants to be transported by aid car down to the hospital – to which he says no because now he is starting to feel embarrassed by the whole mess.
Of course, he’s still gagging and coughing – I have to say poor thing – it must be a terrible thing to try and carry on a conversation and answer questions when you are trying to cough up your toenails! The head medic says that he is not comfortable leaving us though and that one way or the other, he wants Bob to go down to the ER and get checked out. We have to sign a paper waiving transport but he wants us to go by car to the hospital and they will follow us down.
Well, that seemed reasonable on all accounts as just in case Bob got worse and we had to call back again….they might not think it serious enough to come back!
I Have To Use The Listerine!
Well, I wasn’t prepared to go out! I was in my lounging pj’s and had on my slippers! It wasn’t like I went in and put make-up on or anything or took a shower for crying out loud! I just went in to slip on some ‘respectable clothes’, gargle with Listerine (since we were going into a HOSPITAL and swine flu is everywhere), and put on some real shoes. Then I came back out to find Bob (still gagging and retching) getting annoyed.
He was muttering something between gags about ‘why don’t you just go take a shower and do your hair before we go? I’ll just wait here and hope I don’t pass out from gagging!’ Well – that was totally uncalled for! But then I made matters even worse because I stepped past him and instead of heading out to the garage to the car, I went out on the deck and grabbed the puppy. Well – I could not very well leave the puppy here!! What is he thinking?
So I grab the dog, my purse and we go out to the garage to get into the SUV – meanwhile the EMTs are still sitting out in front of our house, probably in retrospect wondering what is taking these 2 old fools so long! I’m sure they were amused when they saw me struggling trying to get the almost 60-pound malamute puppy into the back of the car! (He IS only 5 months old and I could not leave him!)
Okay – now I’m in the car. Oh bummer – why are we taking the SUV? Oh yeah – the puppy’s crate is in the back that’s why – so just shut up and drive. Well, our garage is extremely narrow and our SUV barely fits in it beside the other car. Trying to back out without ripping the side mirror off is a chore on a good day and this is turning out NOT to be a good day. I’m just hoping and praying I can go straight back and not rip anything off!
I get very nervous when I’m under pressure, and by now, Bob is absolutely fuming. I can almost see smoke coming out his ears – in retrospect, I’m thinking I should have sent him in the aid car with my blessings! I’m literally INCHING out of the garage trying not to hit anything and now comes the even trickier part. I have extremely small hands. I am not a small woman per se but I am not a tall woman. I feel like I’m driving an 18-wheeler driving the SUV. I cannot see where I am in terms of the garage and backing out and I have no sense of how far anything is away from me! If that wasn’t bad enough, now I have to back down the driveway and out between the vinyl fence posts without knocking THEM down.
It probably seemed to Bob like it took me 30 minutes to back out – I think he said this later on last night when we got home while he was doing his imitation of Audrey in a crisis situation. And as if things weren’t already making me crazy enough, somehow in the midst of starting the car and getting the seat “just so” for my legs, I have popped the hood (instead of getting the emergency brake off) AND I have managed to somehow turn on the interior lights. I am frantically trying to back out AND trying to figure out how to turn them off to no avail and my husband is turning purple – not from choking – I think from pure frustration.
I have now turned the windshield wipers on – it is not raining – but in my frantic efforts to turn the lights off, I’ve turned about everything on in the car I can – including the REAR windshield wiper! I finally just say mentally ‘screw it’ – I finish backing out, wave at the fellows in the aid car and fire truck and go on down the road. I’m sure they are wondering what all the light is for inside the car since it’s way past dark – and they must be wondering why the wipers are all on – but oh well! I’ve got a patient to deliver!
Getting The Job Done
So there we go – down the hill to the hospital – Bob shaking his head all the while. It’s too bad all that distraction didn’t help him quit gagging and coughing – but he’s still doing it! Probably made it worse with all that exasperation at the little old lady who should not be driving the SUV! True to their word, they followed us down and watched me take Bob up to the door and drop him off while I tried to go get the car parked and race back inside. (Of course, I still had not closed the hood all the way or gotten the interior lights turned off but hey – only 1 thing at a time!)
By the time I got back inside, Bob was sitting out in chairs – he had politely told the gal that he was going to try and ‘work this out’ and he did not think he needed to be seen. He was not coughing any less or gagging any less, but we just kept making sure he had water. Even the guard who was handing out hand sanitizer to us all as we came through the door (what a job) made sure he gave Bob some more water to try and wash the pill down or help it float to the top!
So that’s where we sat for about an hour – watching the fish in the tank. He obviously wasn’t in terrific distress – just uncomfortable as heck. He could have been seen but he did not think after all it was an ’emergent’ type of situation so decided on the old fashioned method of gagging and retching; it finally calmed down a bit. He was able to cough up a bit of the offending aspirin and felt good enough to go back home so off we went on our merry way. I made it in record time, too – although it took me a while to line it up again coming in! I feel like I’m landing an airplane.
I’m sure if anyone was watching all this, it must have been slightly amusing – though I could think of a lot more fun ways to spend a Sunday evening! I think we rolled back in at home about 10:30 or so. We stopped off at the store to get some liquid antacid to hopefully calm his much irritated stomach down but then once home, we had to dig out the car manual while we sat in the garage to try and figure out what I had done to turn on the lights. Bob finally found it! Man – am I great in a clutch situation or what?
He closed the hood on the car and got the lights turned off, managed to lift the huge sleeping puppy out of the car, and we called it a night. He had to sleep sitting up of course because his chest burned from the aspirin. I got him doctored up (about time) with the Maalox and an acid suppressant, loads more water, and did my best to try and not do anything ELSE to make the situation worse! He ended up with a terribly sore chest, a very rumbling cough and a voice that sounds like he works in a nightclub, but it finally dissolved or went somewhere else I guess!
The moral of that story is – never take an aspirin or any kind of anti-inflammatory medication without TONS of water! Try never to choke on it! If it gets caught it burns as it tries to dissolve – that’s the ‘rub’ so to speak and then all that gagging and such – terrible thing! And if you get into trouble, hopefully you will have someone more equipped to deal with emergent situations on your team than me! Maybe planning ahead for these situations would help me. I will have to write a blog on what to do if….or what NOT to do if….
Choking Episode On Everybody Loves Raymond
You Can Buy On Amazon and Have On Hand
The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook
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Garage Door Opening, Car Starting and Backing Up
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First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2013 (First Aid USMLE)
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Coleman Expedition First Aid Kit
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Medique 40061 First Aid Kit, 61-Piece
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Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pack with QuikClot
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American Red Cross Disaster & Emergency Kit by First Aid Only
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