It all started out so good – just like a good starter should do. My cousin and her husband who were visiting Dublin had invited me to dinner and, going on previous experiences, a night out with these folks and some other relationships was always worthwhile. Plenty of chat, food, drinks and no end of rib tickling stories would ensure all had a great time. It was all good fun until something got stuck in my throat, and it didn’t want to budge. I did as much as I could to help the offending morsel on its way south, but all to no avail. I was stuck, just like the little blighter that ruined my evening. Later, after an uncomfortable few hours in bed, wondering if something really serious had happened to me, I finally collapsed into the arms of Morpheus, exhausted.
In the morning when I tried to have a bowl of cereal I realised that my situation was unchanged. I was nervous and felt my heart beat a little faster. As I sat at the table I began to think about something other than my discomfort hoping that a muscle might relax and rid me of the blockage. It was useless, and soon I was unable to swallow water. I was desperate, and knew that I had to visit the local hospital.
The Accident & Emergency area in the hospital was busy when I arrived and took a seat at the back of the room. People of all ages and sizes sat close together expressing their varying degrees of pain in sounds that grew all too familiar. It was not a happy place but definitely better than where they were before. Groans, coughs and the trilling of mobile phones filled the room while the crowd shifted as patients were called. Unfortunately, due to a full room and two motor accident victims being brought in, I waited all night before being seen. It was a real drag, but when I compared my situation with others about me, I exhaled slowly and turned the page of the book that I was reading.
Finally I was examined by a doctor who looked about as tired as I felt. After an x-ray indicated that I indeed did have a foreign body within he scheduled a full test for later in the day. I thanked him and snuggled down in a corner chair and grabbed a few hours of needy sleep.
Just before midday the doctor returned and told me what was going to happen.
I managed a painful gulp but still nothing moved.
The doctor said that I was about to have an endoscopic investigation, and stories from friends who had had a similar examination came flooding back. They had all disliked the experience, and I went anxiously with the porter along white corridors to my appointment. He made some small talk as we walked, doing his best to ease my worried mind.
There were at least six people waiting or preparing equipment when I entered the theatre, and took off my jacket.
‘Just lie down here, please,’ the doctor said, indicating the bed around which the others, who were dressed in green garb, moved with purpose. I noted flashing lights on a tall machine from which a long, black cable that seemed to go on forever, spiralled. Jeez, he’s not planning to stick that thing into my mouth, I thought, a quiver of apprehension running up my spine. It was another uncomfortable moment, but there was no going back.
This was my first time ever to visit a hospital as a patient and the quiet reassurance of those green-garbed professionals was a big help. They explained the procedure and after a few deep breaths the doctor got the show on the road. With my teeth biting into a hard circular ring the doctor said those fateful words that are usually heard in a dentist’s surgery.
‘Open wide,’ he said and there followed the first tickling at the back of my throat. It felt horrible as he probed about and I didn’t help matters by gagging noisily in response. Finally after a couple of attempts the black tube slipped past my tongue and descended into the bowels of my inner self. I thought that I was in Alien and expecting a monster to burst from my stomach at any moment. I could feel something moving about inside me before my breathing levelled out to something manageable.
‘You’re doing fine,’ a voice said gently as a tear was wiped from my eye.
The doctor probed away and assessed his work on the attached monitor. He jiggled the tube up and down before the image on screen drew a sharp breath. ‘Wow, now that’s what I call a foreign body,’ he exclaimed as others leaned closer for a better look.
‘What’s that?’ asked someone.
‘A piece of stir fry beef, I believe,’ said the doctor holding his hand steady and clicking a photograph of the obstruction.
One wag’s quip ‘More like won’t-stir fry,’ brought a fit of laughter to the room. I appreciated the sharp comment and gagged a response. I must remember that, I thought, just before I was given an injection and passed out almost immediately.
I woke hours later in a strange bed but thankfully rid of a certain, unwanted morsel. I stayed in bed overnight, before being released with a clean bill of health. And a photo of the dark, beefy obstruction. The doctor told me in no uncertain terms to steer clear of that type of food. ‘It’s not good for you.’
‘Steer or stir?’ I asked, and this time I was able to share the laugh.