It’s long, but you don’t get the full effect if I shorten it, so…
One year, I went to the beach. It was the first vacation I ever took solo, which I did on the cheap because that was the only way I could afford it. Off-season, cheap condo, cooked all my meals instead of eating out, etc. I was determined to spend as little money as possible and still have a great time.
I bought a flounder filet at my favorite fishery (this is a beach I frequented while growing up), brought it back to the condo, cooked it. Had half for dinner. The next day, as I swallowed the very last bite of the other half of that flounder filet at lunch, I felt a stab. My immediate thought was “Crap. Bone.” At first, I thought I just scratched my throat and it would be fine. Nope. Every swallow from there on out was horrendously painful. I called my dad, who walked me through a bunch of remedies he found online that are intended to dislodge swallowed fish bones. Nothing worked.
I drove myself to the ER (hospitals are one of my biggest anxiety triggers, though that’s gotten somewhat better since this happened – LOL). I checked in at the desk, told the nurse what happened, and listened as she said to her coworker: “This woman THINKS she swallowed a fish bone. How do I input that?”
I said, “No, I DID swallow a fish bone. I can feel it in there, wiggling and stabbing.”
Again, she said “Thinks”, but I let it slide because talking made the bone move and that hurt. Turning my head hurt. Swallowing hurt.
I sat in the waiting room from noon till 3pm in, essentially, one big panic attack (meanwhile, my phone’s battery was at 20%, so I had nothing to distract me from the pain/anxiety because I needed to keep some charge in it just in case I needed it). Then I went to the urgent care across the street because it hurt too much to do nothing. I thought they’d be able to reach in with something and grab it easily. Urgent care took an x-ray, said “Yep, you swallowed a bone” (YES I know that, thanks guys), and said I should go back to the hospital cause it’s too deep for them to get. Great. They called ahead and let the hospital front desk know I was coming and to get me up to surgery. I drove back across the street.
I arrived at 5:01pm. The person manning the hospital front desk was gone for the day. I went back to the ER, told them that I was supposed to check in at the desk and get taken up to surgery, and was told “Oh, sorry, we’ll just have to put you back in the queue.” Keep in mind, by this point, I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink since noon.
At about 6 pm, I started feeling dehydrated (I drink a lot of water usually – I’m always drinking, so when I don’t drink for any length of time, I really feel it, and too long gets me a migraine).
Finally, about 7pm, they took me back to a little ER room. Got the x-rays from urgent care. Said “Yep, we’ll have to call in the general surgeon, anesthesiologist, surgical nurses, etc.” Which, of course, made me feel terrible (because I’m the kind of person who automatically feels horrible if I inconvenience people, even if being inconvenienced is an accepted part of their job). So I waited. They finally arrived. Consulted with me. Agreed that surgery was necessary.
Nurse said “Your blood pressure is really high” and I laughed (ow) and said “Yes, yes it is. I’ve spent the past 7 hours with no one believing that I’m actually in incredible pain, I haven’t had anything to drink, and I’ve basically been one big anxiety attack since noon. So yeah, my blood pressure is elevated.”
She gave me a sedative. It was glorious. They took me to surgery around 8:30pm (I was loopy when they wheeled me into the operating room and I all I remember is looking around the room and saying something like “Hey, this is cool”, then they started to knock me out and I was like “WOW that works fast” and I was out). I was out of surgery around 9pm. I drank apple juice. I was super wobbly. I went on a long and probably meandering feel-good-drug-fueled explanation about something the nurse couldn’t have cared less about, but she was a good sport and listened politely. The surgeon came in and said that the bone had embedded itself so deep that it nearly perforated my esophagus, which would have been quite bad. I thanked him too profusely (still loopy).
My dad drove to the hospital (from my parents’ house, 4.5 hours away) to get me out so I didn’t have to spend the night. We got back to my condo at 1 am. (I made him stay at the beach with me a couple days – figured if he made the drive, he might as well get a little vacation out of it!). My throat hurt for a week. I had trouble coming up with the words I wanted to say (apparently this can happen after anesthesia, which I wasn’t prepared for!).
It’s been four years and I’m finally able to eat fish without too much anxiety. My cheap vacation turned into a cheap vacation + an almost $5000 hospital bill.