Sunday, February 15, 2009

Day 10: The Art of Choking

There are some things you think will never happen to you. There's skinning your knee, slipping in the bath tub and stapling your finger (all of which, sadly, I have experienced). And then there's choking. Most folks don't think much of it. Maybe you were eating too fast, didn't chew properly and the food got stuck temporarily.

Or it may get trapped in your windpipe. In which case, the Heimlich maneuver comes into play.

But let's backtrack: Sunny day, clear skies, Downtown LA at 10:30 a.m. We roll into Ctown for some Vietnamese sandwiches and freshly-squeezed orange juice, both of which were a mere 2 dollars each. A Latino husband-wife team sold the orange juice in a parking lot. Manning a shaded vending booth, the man squeezed the oranges in the fruit juicer as the woman poured the contents into plastic cups. Behind the booth was their faded blue pickup truck, where hundreds of bright oranges peeked out from barrels. This OJ is the real deal. The flavor of oranges, and oranges alone. Nothing artificial here.

In the car, we munched hungrily on Banh Mi Dat Biet, a hearty Vietnamese sandwich made of assorted sliced meat, daikon, cilantro and carrot on a crusty French loaf. However, when the car lurched forward, so did the carrot, lodging itself in the back of my throat. Alarmed, I grabbed my water bottle and guzzled it like there was no tomorrow. I thought it would go away.

But it didn't. A constricting sensation was cutting off my air supply as I gulped for breath. Oh, to breathe! My uncle, sensing my situation, quickly drove me to the nearest hospital (first picture). Fortunately, Huntington Hospital was nearby. After waiting something like an hour, I finally got checked out. It turns out that the carrot had scratched my esophagus, causing me discomfort even though it had gone down my throat. So, after all, I didn't need the Heimlich, but that was my first visit to the ER. And on vacation. I'm just that lucky.

Back on the road again, my little nephew cautioned me, "Auntie Sarah, don't eat the carrots, okay? O-kayyyy?" Don't worry, kiddo, I'm not going to do anything rash this time around.

Lesson of the day #1: Don't eat while the car is in motion.

Lesson of the day #2: Always bring your up-to-date medical information with you when traveling. You never know what calamity might befall you...erm, yeah.

That sandwich sure was tasty, though.

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