The only way I can describe the scene is straight out of a Tarantino film. If you don’t want all of the gory details, you might want to skip to the end.
I started brewing beer a couple of years ago with friends. Then, Cyn gifted me my own equipment, and I fell in love. But, she’s been confused how I could find the process so fascinating and still refuse to even try to cook anything. Last week, I told her that maybe if the end result isn’t amazing, I fear it won’t be worth the effort. So, I asked her to find me a recipe that would be good no matter what. Sunday night, we worked together on my first creation. And I think it was a success.
Earlier that day I drove to the beer store to pick up a special release Imperial Stout. Cyn thought it would go well with the meal.
We got everything ready, turned on Mythbusters, and sat down to eat. I took one drink, then one bite, then…
Sometimes I think about how others might perceive me. Maybe more than sometimes. Based on what people have told me recently, I am a pretty low key dude. I don’t have a lot of highs or lows. My stress level currently is almost nonexistent. But, I used to be a very different person.
I think Old Rob came out on Sunday night.
I couldn’t breathe for probably about 30 seconds. I’ve never had that experience, and I hope you don’t either. But, it was the most confusing and terrifying feeling I can remember. My mind was simultaneously in shock and in survival mode. I just wanted to live. I just wanted it to stop.
Hayden ended up doing the Heimlich on me multiple times (which I’m guessing was slightly traumatizing). After all of the movement, I could breathe. Thinking back, my sixteen year old son literally saved my life.
But, it wasn’t over. Even though I could breathe, I couldn’t swallow. Another thing that you really never think about until you can’t do it, and then it’s existential misery. I had to force myself to spit every time my body wanted to swallow. This went on for a couple of hours. When I would stop focusing on spitting, I would choke and gag again. For hours.
We tried a few different things, including me punching myself in the chest and throat, but nothing was helping me swallow. I have a pretty good gag reflex, but I couldn’t throw up either.
I finally caved. We had to go to the emergency room.
We could tell that whatever was happening was a big deal. We got moved from the ER to the ICU to surgery pretty quickly. I think we were at the hospital for less than 3 hours. Working in the medical field, all I could do was count the number of people helping me, which I’m assuming will nicely translate into a lovely medical bill.
I guess I’m a pretty vain person. I’m probably too concerned with how I look. If I have anything in my nose, or on my clothes, I tend to overreact. Holding a vomit bag over my face while I almost filled it with spit was definitely not the highlight of my life. The looks from pretty much everyone at that hospital ranged from disgust to sympathy. I guess I looked pretty sad.
The meal I made was a vegetable stew. I assumed that what I choked on was a potato. No one at the hospital believed me. I didn’t tell any of them that I was a vegetarian, but they all jumped immediately to “steak.” One person even said if it was steak it would’ve been worth it. Obviously they’ve never personally had a similar experience.
They had to do an emergency endoscopic surgery to remove the blockage. What they found is a bit ironic: a chickpea.
I’m still learning about exactly what I have. Basically, it’s an allergic buildup in my esophagus that caused (and will continue to cause) it to swell up seemingly randomly. And I could choke again.
Thankfully, I’m not actually allergic to chickpeas.
The next morning, I woke up in a lot of pain. I took a lot of Tylenol, a lot of Advil, and slept for most of the day. But, Tuesday was a lot worse. I could barely get out of bed. Everything from the stomach up hurt. Like I was beaten with a bat. I could barely move. It hurt to laugh, to cough, to sneeze, to bend over, to sit up, to stand up, to walk. Using the bathroom was a nightmare.
Over the years, I’ve spent some time researching near death experiences. This is definitely not a post to go down that rabbit hole. But, it seems that a lot of people have some very similar things happen when they almost die. They see a light. They see their lives flash before their eyes. And so on.
None of that happened.
Another thing I’ve heard a lot of people say is that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” The idea being that when you’re near death, you will instinctively reach out to some higher power.
Honestly, I didn’t think about “God” from the second I began choking until a few days later. My mind was firmly fixed on the one thing that actually matters the most to any of us who are still breathing: survival. I just wanted to keep living.
Life can be pretty scary. Tragic. But, at least in my experience, the good always outweighs the bad. Life is worth it. It can be and often is beautiful. I doubt most of us are actually going to focus on anything else when similar things happen.
Honestly, I don’t understand how thinking about God, or talking to God, or anything else would have benefitted me in any way. Obviously, people die every day. And, if there is a God, he/she/it in the least allows that to happen. Why should I assume that God would arbitrarily choose to allow me to live, but not someone else?
Each millisecond was about solving the problem. Figuring out what I needed to do. Anything that would’ve hijacked my focus could’ve actually been the end of me.
There is still a ridiculous stigma in our culture around those of us who simply lack a belief in a deity. But, honestly, when shit gets real, I sincerely doubt that many other people would react much differently than I did. Practically, when it really matters, we’re all atheists.
This post is not meant to be an argument against anyone’s belief in God. It’s merely a confession that I just don’t think about God all that much anymore. And I think there are very few “true believers” out there.