All Choked Up

When I was around eight years old, there was an incident. This incident involved a grape. All kids play with their food and I was no exception. I used to take grapes and put them inbetween my lips and then suck them in like a vacuum cleaner. Well one day I sucked a little too hard and the grape flew down the back of my throat and down my air pipe. I turned to my mom and opened my mouth to tell her I was choking but I could make no words escape my lips. I continue to be able to breathe but it was very forced.

My mom immediately knew what was happening and yelled to my dad. "He’s choking!" My dad nonchalantly walked into the kitchen and asked what was going on. "He’s choking!" My mom yelled again.

"He’s not choking" my dad said. "He’s just playing around."

I continue to gag in front of the sink desperately trying to cough up the killer grape. I guess my welled up eyes and red face eventually gave it away, and my dad realized I really was choking. After some quick brainstorming my mom and dad came up with an idea, and that idea was milk. My mom ran to the refrigerator and poured a glass of milk. I took a couple of sips and no surprise here, but the magical milk didn’t work.

He then began to hit me on the back and two or three whacks later the grape flew out of my mouth and landed in the sink. I survived the attack of the grape and never again would I suck a grape into my mouth.

The story of the choking of the grape became a favorite one in our household. We thought it was especially funny how my dad didn’t really believe me and then thought milk would save the day for some reason. I didn’t have any other episodes of choking for a long time after the grape incident, but then I became a quadriplegic and choking seems to be a regular occurrence in my life. If any fluids, or food particles whatsoever barely fall into my windpipe, I basically have to get the Heimlich maneuver so I can cough it up. Most of the time this happens, an able-bodied person would simply clear their throat with ease to fix the situation, but for me it’s an elaborate production.

Friday night, the story of the killer grape was possibly eclipsed by the story of the killer pill. I take a lot of pills now, 95% of them nutritional supplements, many of them large enough to be called horse pills. I’ve never been very good at swallowing pills or swallowing in general for that matter. Since my spinal cord injury I’ve had to be very deliberate about my swallowing, since my cough is so weak. Friday night I was taking about eight or so pills. My mom was popping one after the other into my mouth as I gulped down some green tea. Everything was going according to plan and suddenly I felt a large yellow pill begin to slide down the wrong portion of my throat. I tried to quickly fix the situation by breathing in to cough but with that breath the pill fell down my air pipe.

My mom has seen me struggle with coughing before but this time it was different. Usually I’m pretty calm and collective, knowing that I just need to gather up a good cough. This time however, breathing was difficult and with each breath I could feel the pill moving further down my air pipe. Flashbacks of the grape appeared in my mind, as I tried to speak but could not. I pointed to my dad who is sitting on the couch and my mom yelled to him much like the grape incident. Luckily my dad and I have had a lot of practice recently with the quad cough since I’ve had a chest cold. It’s all about timing. He pushes down on my stomach at the same time I’m trying to cough. Simple right. He ran over and began to push down on my stomach but because I was having trouble breathing he could not get the timing right. I began to panic somewhat and thought about telling them to call 911. I forced myself to take in a deep breath and my dad came in at just the right time. The pill flew out of my mouth and landed in my lap. I began to wheeze forcing breath in and out of my lungs. My dad then promptly walked away, plopped back on the couch and continue to watch the basketball game.

I looked at my mom with an incredulous look at my face. There I was, feeling like I almost died, he saves my life and acts like it’s no big deal. My mom was still panic stricken and just shook her head at my father’s casualness of the situation. A couple minutes later my voice was back. "Dad, how can you just start watching basketball again? I was just choking."

"Quit being so melodramatic", he replied.

I guess it’s all in a days work for the super dad. Killer grape here, killer pill there, no big deal.

My daily pill sessions now feel like a battle for life and death. After each round of eight or 10 pills, I thank God I am still alive. Maybe one day I’ll get a hang of this whole swallowing thing.

Since my last entry, life as a whole has been good. I continue to do my daily homework assignments and I feel like many improvements are occurring. I do a lot of electrical stimulation which has caused the muscles in my upper body to grow in bulk and my triceps have actually gained quite a bit of strength considering how weak they were. I have felt a tightness occurring in my left tricep for a while now but my right tricep is kicking in as well and I can feel a tightness when trying to use it.

I am also now sleeping with my bed tilted at about a 6° incline. This particular approach to healing has been specially interesting and almost immediately after beginning the treatment I began to notice the effects. Increased energy, better complexion, healthier skin and nails, increase body temperature, and increased blood pressure. All of these are effects which seem to initially occur for most people who use inclined bed therapy. I have yet to experience the long-term effects but nerve regeneration is supposedly enhanced. My initial experiences and my reading of the literature, has led me to believe that inclined bed therapy works and will have a serious impact on my recovery. I recommend anyone, able-bodied or not to try inclined bed therapy. What have you got to lose?

I have to be honest, the past week or so I’ve been getting rather frustrated. I have a tremendous amount of pent up energy right now and my homework assignments have slowly started to become mundane. At first it was fresh and exciting but now it is becoming routine. One of the main problems is that I don’t really get out that much. The city of Charlotte has yet to provide me with a consistent goal where I have places to go, people to see, and definite achievements to reach. Also for some reason or another Charlotte somehow inevitably puts me in a funk. The life I once had in this city has faded away and continues to fade further and further. Being in this city almost reinforces the idea that I can get back at least a portion of my old life back but I think this may be an illusion.

I want to start over fresh. I don’t want to be constantly reminded of everything I once had. Maybe one day I’ll be able to come back to Charlotte and come to terms with facing my old life but right now I just feel like leaving it behind me. It’s strange but it feels like Charlotte should have so much to offer me. I know a lot of people in this city and there are a lot of opportunities here, but yet I haven’t been able to find my niche. I know the time has come to move on.

It seems like there is a lot of time before the move but if everything goes according to plan I should be in Atlanta in a couple weeks. I’m not sure how it’s all going to go down because our house has yet to be sold. But I know things will fall into place.

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11 Responses to All Choked Up

  1. joannie says:

    wanting to leave charlotte is part of growing. you have accomplished all that you think you can and so it is time to move on. being a north carolinian myself for the last ten years i  understand. the time comes when we must all move on. it allows us to grow. good luck in atlanta… i will continue to look in on you. loved the pictures of your work out…. i am so impressed. and just on a nursing note….. have you ever thought about crushing your pills???? keep up the great work… enjoy summer!

  2. Charles says:

    Hi. I came upon your site. Thanks for sharing it. Another good site that I have found inspirational is Kenny\’s at: http://smalls149.spaces.live.com/
    Thanks again for sharing your story. God Bless.

  3. Patricia says:

    Colin – ah the grape and pill story had me holding my breath. I like Joannie\’s idea of crushing those horse pills, maybe you can put them in your tea or something.
    I know that you use the manual chair – can you use a camera? I don\’t know what your arm range is. Taking pictures either mentally or with a camera has helped me when I feel a bit tired of my environment. When I started photog after my accident. The fellow teaching me had me take a picture of the same tree once every hour of a single day. I was amazed at how very different that treee looked in one day! Honestly I thought this a boring assignment until I looked at the results and actually did watch that tree CHANGE. It also gave me a reason to go out and really look at people and my surroundings. It became a goal to go down the street or to favorite places and see them.
    I moved after a time. My new town provided me with what felt like a fresh start. New people. New sights. And I guess too not thinking so much about before the injury. I love my memories though of before the injury and I had a mindshift that instead of seeing the loss, I now love to think of the fun of the memories. I write little poems about them. Sometimes songs. Sounds goofy. I think part of what I am missing is my youth. But in remembering my youth, I get to remember to have that mindframe again. It is uplifting to me. Our souls never change – our memories and loves embedded I think the soul keeps our resiliance through some of the gifts that it has learned. Celebrating the memories makes me less inclined to see any loss, though it does come up. Then I remind myself to get going in the present when that happens. I can almost imagine my life in colors. Bright red and orange great memories make me smile. 🙂 Dream big! hugs, patti

  4. Patricia says:

    I logged off from the computer. Got thinking about some things and had to come back. I was thinking about how you could use a camera if you don\’t have range of motion to bring the camera to your eye. There are a number of photographers that do something called "shooting from the hip" with a shutter release button with a long cord this is a unique and fun possibility!! It takes some practice to get the angle of the camera right – I think it was Robert Frank that used this method on trains – he placed a camera in his coat and pressed the shutter release button on subways in NYC back in I think the 50\’s. He caught people with their natural expressions. It was a landmark in photography. Amazing portraits of people. I like to tell people when I take their picture. You can do that. I believe Frank\’s work wasn\’t published immediately because he felt the portraits were of such private moments. But what if you did a series of photographs on how people relate to someone in a wheelchair? Wouldn\’t that be sort of an interesting study. You could take the picture and then tell them that you took it and if it is okay. A shutter release button is fairly easy to push with your finger depending on the brand. Whatever you chose to photograph could be so magnificent. i love photography so excuse my passion if it isn\’t something that you like. just an idea of something fun. hugs, patti

  5. Patricia says:

    hey Colin – hey there yep looking at your pictures of your therapy especially bat therapy!!! you could definately work with a camera. there are digital ones now that you don\’t even have to have the camera up to your eye because of the screen showing you  – i have several and would be happy to send you one. let me know. hugs, patti

  6. Andrew K says:

    RE Colins reference to I.B.T. or inclined bed therapy. For anyone interested you may want to do a search using "inclined bed therapy" or "andrew k fletcher"
     
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/805968/inclined_bed_therapy/

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