With a blocked off throat preventing me from drawing in air, it produced a sound like a flock of honking geese. My eyes bulged and my arms flapped but only the tiniest bit of air came in.
Lasting several seconds but feeling like minutes, my throat relaxed and I sucked in a roomful of breath. I was stunned but other than my raw throat I felt fine, so I let the moment pass.
It was a warm afternoon, hubby came home from work, our daughter dropped by for a quick visit and I casually mentioned that if I happened to choke again I’d like to be taken to the Emergency Department of our local hospital.
Several hours later I coughed which tore at my raging sore throat and again, something closed off and would not let air in. I opened my mouth and tried to suck in but only produced the same honk. Mysteriously as it began, it stopped and my breathing returned.
At the hospital, after the routine of discussion, waiting and telling the same story several times with a voice that only squeaked out sounds I was settled but sitting, into a bed. I’d had my temperature taken but because I wasn’t ill, I had no fever. We waited.
While studying me, the attending nurse says, “Why are you talking like that,” as she stands nearby and observes me with her notepad, writing who knows what.
“Pardon me,” I say as I look up at her. She repeats her question and I whisper-squeak while I push out the words, “Because I have no voice.”
Really. Did she suspect that perhaps I’d pop into the emergency ward with a wild story and fake laryngitis just to get some weird connection with nurses and doctors? I’d told my story – I believed it was a reaction to a prescription nasal spray I’d been given two days previous. Within the first two hours my throat became raw and as time passed, it dried out, pain increased, a dry cough appeared and things were not getting better.
Strange yes, as I looked perfectly fine. I was scared and there for help, not disbelief.
It wasn’t long before I had the place hopping as the entertainment began with a cough, gasp, honk and then honk some more while I tried to breathe. Staff stared at me, while calling for more staff to come and stare at me. Now I had their attention. This was real.
A doctor looked at me, a call went somewhere to find an ENT (ears/nose/throat) specialist, the staff chattered and I heard a call go out to get Respiratory there and it seemed that curiosity levels rose all around.
When my throat relaxed and was again able to suck invisible life giving air into my lungs the curtained off area became quiet as the nurse stuck a needle in my left arm taping it off, “just in case,” they had to give something to open my airways.
On the next round of bug eyed, chest heaving attempts to breathe and many seconds later take large gasps in as the throat once again opened my nurse appears on the left. Medication is gently attached to the line leading to my taped up hand and freely flows into me.
From the right a mask is placed over my mouth, “a Nebulizer, to help you breathe” I was told and my blood pressure taken several times.
A respiratory person arrived and stood nearby on my left, chatting softly to me, yet I don’t recall what he said.
On the next round of cough, choke, no breath, the attending doctor hands my hubby his phone to video me so he can show the ENT exactly what I look like. Hubby stands at the end of the bed helpless to do anything but do as he is told.
Nice. Somewhere out there my face, gasping and gagging and flapping arms are likely going to be used as an emergency room teaching tool.
This time the lack of air is longer and little dancing tingles creep their way up my fingers to my shoulders and I feel my body begin to sag like a lumpy pillow. My head begins to buzz just as my throat releases the stranglehold and I flop back against the bed, while the darkness behind my eyes returns to light.
By now a couple of hours have passed, the staff have other patients to attend to and hubby’s job is to stand on guard at the door ready to alert them if I begin the routine again. Really, it is so loud I’m quite sure it would not be missed.
The ENT arrives, also stands in the doorway, looks at the phone video display of my performance, looks at me sitting there in my blue gown, with wires and mask and the machines hissing and popping.
I immediately feel embarrassed as I listen to him chat with the staff about what this looks like and I hear the words – Laryngospasm and vocal cord dysfunction which means the cords close.
Then he mentions it can be caused by stress or acid reflux. These are all new terms to me while I process this information – really – I’m choking because I have some stress or acid. Maybe my imagination has made up the whole thing.
I’m sure more professional examination happened but this is my memory of what took place next. The ENT sat down on the right side of the bed and asks me if I was stressed.
“Like what, husband- family-life?” I answer rather astonished at the question as I then let him know this situation was certainly causing some anxiety.
It was mere moments before a nurse was at my left side ordering me to open my mouth and popped a tiny pill under my tongue to relax me or keep me calm or…zone me out.
ENT doc chatters at me as he slips a slick little tube in my nose and slides it down into my throat. That did not feel especially good. He tells me he is going to hit the vocal cords to make them close. Honestly, if my brain had been functioning on full capacity instead of being oxygen deprived I’d have jumped and run.
He makes me talk while he bangs with his little weapon on the inner parts of my throat. Not only is he bashing at me he irritatingly sits too close to me, in my space one could say.
I wasn’t liking him too much.
Then I feel the lid of breath shut off. ENT doc sits calmly telling me to breathe and I just want him to go away.
Instead, he tells me to breathe through my nose, tells me I can do it. I can’t and grunt this information to him. I’m told if I can speak I can breathe. Really! I’d like him to try it.
A straw magically appears and he tells me to suck it – to find the airspace and draw it in.
I try. Then toss the straw. After that attempt fails we return to the nose conversation.
I notice people and activity to my left and I think a hole is about to be stabbed into my throat to help me. I hear them talking but not what is said because my honking is so loud.
I can feel the tears of desperation, frustration and embarrassment run down my face.
My brain squeezes tight as it tries to find a pathway to my nose to make it find air.
It is a battle of wills, the ENT doc’s determination for me to listen to his instruction and use my nose to breathe and my will to breathe any way I can.
My brain finally grasps the instruction and my nose does what my closed vocal cord could not do, air slid into my nostrils, seeped down the back of my throat and into my lungs.
My vocal cords opened and I learned a new life tool and it is one I’ll likely never forget.
I was so mad at him I was speechless. I was so grateful to him I was speechless.
Time passed and that tiny pill settled its soft glow of relaxation and sleepiness over my body as I was wheeled off to ICU (intensive care unit) for a nights rest.