You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy™
Snorting a piece of gum into your respiratory system.
Saturday morning, that is the crazy thought that is swirling inside my brain.
(see snorting gum I)
Cliff Notes Version: I was working out, chewing gum. I know a No No. Never again, right?
And Zip. Big inhale and chunk-o-gum fires back into the soft tissue of my throat
Don’t four out of five dentists recommend working out with gum in your mouth?
A clean mouth – a clean soul. Isn’t that what they say?
I cough and swallow simultaneously. The gum disappears and I am stunned.
What just happened? I feel “not so good”
Even though I’m not on the floor coughing up spearmint, I am concerned. My brain is working over time telling me that the gum, the little bastard gum, is lurking in my airway. But then again, my rational brain is telling me to take a chill pill. I’m not hacking like an Indonesian monkey hooked on Marlboros so I gotta be OK, right?
Conventional Wisdom says: If I had inhaled gum, wouldn’t I be coughing up, well coughing up a lung? I am not. But I feel terrible, as if I have a piece of gun trying to merge into my avioli, but where’s the physically adverse reaction?
Perhaps I swallowed the gum down my esophagus at the last moment, milliseconds before inhaling forcefully. it is possible. It is realistically plausible.
Anyway, I have wrestled with this chicken or egg dilemna for much of Saturday morning, and I have decided to go to the E.R, which if you know me is not something I take lightly.
In the end, thoughts of dying concern me. But truly, the only reason I’m go to the E.R. is because my insurance is paid up and I don’t see the economic reason not to go and talk to someone with a stethoscope.
So here I am, inside a surgical suite.
The doctor has just entered and he is treating this ridiculous medical situation without a trace of laughter.
He is a good looking young doctor, face full of scruff. He looks like the next Bachelor contestant to me.
“So you inhaled a piece of gum?” he says in a stoic straight faced way
“Yeah, inhaled gum,” I say a little depressed, feeling my neck. “I took a huge gulp of air and it shot back against my throat like a bullet. I felt it hit that soft mushy place back there and then it disappeared into a bad place.”
“Do you think you swallowed it?” he says asking the 64,000 dollar question.
“I hoped I had, but I am having trouble breathing now. It’s hard to get a full breath.”
“Does it feel constricted? Tight?”
“A little. I mean I can breathe, but it’s strident, uncomfortable. I can tell it’s in there.”
I run my fingers across my face, referencing my nasal passage.
If I had come in the E.R. with a nail gun injury, none of these purisle questions would be necessary. Look at the nail in my head I could simply say.
I notice that I am pointing to my nasal passages with my fingers. Why am I doing this I wonder? The gum is not behind my nose.
This doctor must think I’m insane, I don’t even know where this lump of goo is lodged. I might as well point to my knee.
“Well let’s take a listen”
He pulls out his stethoscope.
I can tell what he’s going to say before he says it.
“Of course it does”, I say.
“I’m going to order an x ray,” he says. “But I also don’t expect that to show anything.”
That’s encouraging, I think to myself.
“So then what?”
“Then it gets interesting,” he says “We might have to put in an i.v. and put you out, and put a scope down your throat. Can’t have you gagging, we won’t see anything.”
I hang my head. This is what I feared. this is what I do not want. I do not want a scope. I don’t like anesthesia. I don’t want this at all.
How the hell do you inhale a piece of gum?, I think to myself. What was I thinking. There are posters for doctor shopping everywhere, but not one sign warning me not to chew gum and work out. Where’s that poster when you need it?
The x ray man comes in and blasts my body with revealing radiation that apparently reveal nothing.
“At least I don’t have black lung,” I joke.
“Nope. didn’t see that,” Doctor says.
30 excruciating minutes pass. Every sound in the hallway is nerve racking. I am unsure what is coming next. I have read all the signs about returning the remote control to its holder and doctor shopping is illegal.
Apparently doctor shopping is a big problem at this hospital.
I hear nurses banter.
“That guy in behind the curtain is the gum snorting idiot,” I imagine them gossiping.
I stare at the curtain as another cart goes by. I wonder if this is the cart with the horse tranquilizers they are going to stick in me.
I am nervous. I do not want such an elaborate procedure.
Finally young doctor reality show comes in.
“OK, here’s where we’re at. I spoke to the pulmonary expert. She doesn’t feel there is any danger of your airways clogging today. You’re getting 100% oxygen. She says perhaps in the next 2 days it will dislodge on its own. If it is still bothering you she wants you to call Monday.”
“She’ll probably give you propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson. They’ll knock you out for a few minutes and put a light into your lung.”
“Could it go away by itself?”
“It could,” he says offering me no hope.
He hands me my paper work.
It says you were seen today for acute dyspnea-resolved possible foreign body aspiration.
That’s medical jargon for “dumb ass snorted gum”
I shake my head in embarrassed disbelief.
“You can put your shirt on and your free to go,” he says with a smile, moving onto his next reality TV patient.
Just then my phone rings.
It’s Billy the tow truck driver.
I almost forgot. My car broke down while I drove myself to the E.R. I’m stranded with a gum bullet in my lung at the hospital.
“It’s Affordable Tow. Where are you?”
“At this very minute I’m in a surgical suite inside the emergency room.
“What!” he shouts.
“Acute Dyspnea-aspiration,” I joke.
“What?” the lobotomized tow truck driver shouts back.
“Never mind. I can’t talk right now. The car is parked outside the E.R. you towed it last month. I’ll meet ya there.”
I walk through the waiting room. There are now ten people. No nail gun injuries that I can easily see.
Ten people waiting to be seen by Dr. Perfect. I have all ready seen him. Na na na na na.
It’s the only time all morning I feel good about anything.
I walk to my car and get in it.
I stare in the rear view mirror and tilt my head back.
I inspect the inside of my nostrils hoping to catch a glimpse of neon colored blue gum. If it was hiding there, I would just pick it out.
I feel like a moron who has just wasted the morning, wasted medical dollars, and sadly the worst is yet to come.
Just then a big flat bed comes flying over the crest of the parking lot.
Billy the tow truck man jumps out.
“You gonna be OK?” he asks with the same compassion he has for an axel on a Toyota Camry.
I am going to have to tell this story again. This time to the burly armed tow truck man.
“Well, I was working out and chewing gum. Yeah, I know a major no no….”
All the way to the station he tells me a story about choking on a pork chop. I want to kill myself.
I smile, but I feel terrible. As we roll along the interstate, 10 feet above the rest of traffic, I see my sorry ass car in the side view mirror.
Car broke. Gum hiding in my lung; maybe, maybe not?
I wonder what else can happen.
Sunday morning, I wake up with a goal to not cough.
Will I see that specialist Monday who wants to give me Michael Jackson death juice and stick a camera and light into my throat?
I don’t know. It’s going to have to get pretty uncomfortable for that to happen.
Right now, I am going to trick my respiratory system that it is free and clear and nothing is wrong.
I’ll check Web MD and read about lung infections for a while and then Ill decide.
By Tuesday morning I am feeling back to normal, Thank God. I guess the gum is in my large intestine bothering nobody for the next 7 years.
Four out of five dentists recommend it.