Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hard to swallow (August 17, 1980)

This was my second visit to the Emergency room in less than a month. The first time, I thought I was having a heart attack, after I pulled a muscle in my chest lifting a refrigerator.
 This time, I thought I had a chicken bone stuck in my throat.
 At least, something stabbed me when I swallowed, and since my girl friend's family served chicken earlier that night, I assumed the worst.
 The doctors and nurses here giggled at me, clearly disbelieving everything I had to say.
 "If there's something down there," they told me. "We'll find it."
 The problem is nobody bothered to actually look down my throat. The minute I came through the door, the nurse said: "Take him for an X-ray."
 I protested, asking if he shouldn't take a peek first.
 The doctor gave me an evil look and asked: "Now just who is the doctor here?"
 I accepted his suggestion and under went the cold hands and cold machine, the hum and the grumble, and the clearing throats of the attendants who frowned at the results and then at me. They took their picture of my chest, my throat, my shoulder, though I could see from the glint in their eyes, they suspected the real problem higher up on my shoulders, and a condition no x-ray would find a cure for. In fact -- to make sure the bill was sufficiently well-endowed, they passed me from one room to another, from one set of cold hands to the next, each forming his or her conclusion about what might be wrong, each frowning at me when they came upon the blank x-ray. Finally, I had worked my way back to the doctor who just shook his head at me, saying, he didn't see anything wrong with me at all.
 "But it hurts, Doc," I said, and cringed as the imagined bone pinched me in the throat again.
 The doctor seeing this, nodded gravely.
 "Perhaps it would be a good idea to have look," he said, then stared down my open mouth, humming and grumbling as much as the machines. "I don't see... wait a minute, I do see something. Nurse, give me a set of forceps."
 A moment later, the doctor had retrieved a piece of spice, something like an extended grain, Susan's mother had used in the meal.
 "There's the culprit," the doctor said, holding it aloft, drawing nods from the others, and increased chuckles. "It would have dissolved sooner or later."

 Amazingly, I was cured. But by then, I was having trouble swallowing again, but only because the doctor had handed me my bill.

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