The high point at work today had to be when I almost choked to death in my cubicle for like 5 minutes and no one ran to my assistance. There was a person a few feet from me in the adjoining cube and several people close enough to hear my distressing coughs. I’m not saying they should have rushed in with the Heimlich maneuver since I had just eaten too much black pepper on my salad and it irritated my throat, resulting in feeling like I was choking and generally being unable to take a good, deep breath. However, it was somewhat disturbing that they went about their work as if I was not having an intense coughing fit and sounding like I was going to expire at any moment.
This incident made me think about a fear common to people living alone (or a fear that you will certainly develop now): choking with no one around to help you. It’s happened to most of us and it can scare the bejeezus out of you when it does. Choking takes place when your airway becomes blocked with an object, typically food that was hastily chewed. Hopefully you’re not choking on one of those bags that toys come in that says “Choking Hazard! This Bag is NOT a Toy!” because then I fear that you are not intelligent enough to live on your own or take care of yourself.
First things first, if you are choking to the point where you can’t breathe, call 911. Time is of the essence and if the stuff I’m describing below doesn’t work, you’ll want help on the way ASAP. Then, try to find another person. Since my only roommate has four legs and a tail, he’s not so great at giving me the Heimlich maneuver. Go outside if you can and grab that nosy neighbor who is always hanging out on her front stoop and get her to give you the Heimlich. If you don’t see anyone, bang on the nearest door. Still can’t find anyone? Then it’s time to take matters into your own hands and give yourself the Heimlich maneuver.
Make a fist and place it just above your navel and below your rib cage. Grab your fist with your other hand and deliver quick thrusts inward and upward until you dislodge whatever it was that was stuck in your throat. You can also use a stable, hard surface like a countertop or chair. You’ll still want to focus on the area between your navel and rib cage. You may sustain an injury like a broken rib but that’s better than choking to death and being one of those sad people that you read about who are found days later, partially eaten by packs of wild dogs.
Since you probably want to avoid breaking your ribs to begin with, let’s try to not choke. Don’t eat distracted – – you’re more likely to have something go down the wrong pipe, as my mom used to say. Don’t watch anything too hilarious while you’re eating or wait until the commercials to take careful bites. Cut your food into small pieces and chew very thoroughly. An added bonus will be that you’ll feel full faster, therefore spend less on food and be able to afford all the therapy you’ll need from your new fear of choking to death alone.
Sources: Mayo Clinic