We finished last night in the Emergency Room.
The evening started out well. Case and I took Caitlin on the Metro-Cable up to the national park, and then rode back down as the sun set. It was beautiful, as it always is up there.
Once home we cracked a bottle of wine and got dressed for dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town. They gave us a table on their outdoor patio, and we ordered a round of exquisite drinks and our main courses – I got prawns, Caitlin got tilapia, and Casey got steak.
The trouble started when I began eating Casey’s steak. (We’d strategically ordered different things so we could share.) As some of you know, for years I’ve had a constricted esophagus. I’ve had doctors check it out and they’ve never told me anything useful, or that there’s any remedy. My throat has a point that narrows more than most, so I should be careful to chew my food well, and when taking pills. (Nyquil is always a challenge.)
Anyway, a couple bites into Casey’s steak I felt a chunk get stuck. I grabbed my glass of water, and started chugging, a remedy that works 95% of the time. But last night it didn’t, and I stood up, walked to a relatively secluded corner of the patio, and puked.
Unfortunately, all that came up was the water. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. I took some deep breaths, and Casey came up behind me to see if I was ok. Then an (English-speaking?) waitress arrived. I asked Casey for a glass of water, and took it downstairs to the bathroom. I tried chugging again, to no avail. Casey stood by me as the restaurant host came in to offer his expertise on the human trachea. He then left and came back with seltzer water. But that didn’t work either. The worst thing was, with each attempt I knew that I was only further inflaming my throat, likely tightening it around the piece of steak.
So we paid, left, and caught a cab to what the folks at the restaurant told us was the best hospital in town. Our first taxi driver said he didn’t know how to get there, however, and then our second one drove us halfway before coming to the end of a one-way road and realizing he didn’t know how to get there either. We started walking, three gringos in the dark, in Medellin. That seemed really stupid, so, after attempting a head stand (with Caitlin holding my legs and Casey pounding my chest – sorry, no one left to photograph) which didn’t help, we caught a third cab. It got us to the emergency room.
Once there, we stood at reception, where there was no receptionist. When a stubby man showed up five minutes later, he asked if I had health insurance here (which we do, but don’t fully understand) and then took and kept my ID. We sat in the dark waiting room, across from three guys on their smart phones. We could hear a baby (perhaps a newborn) shrieking behind us. Casey called her dad and stepmother, a doctor and nurse, with lots of ER experience. They suggested sips of olive oil or a hot lemon tea, and a neck-stretch-swallow-maneuver. The pharmacy only had castor oil, but it also had a vending machine that made hot tea. The other vending machine was out of water, and the pharmacy didn’t have any, so I bought a powerade. Then we sat in the waiting room for a while, as I stretched and swallowed and took the tiniest sips of lemon tea. We still hadn’t seen a doctor in the entire building. A guy with a bleeding head from a motorcycle accident arrived, his friends pushing him in a wheel chair. He was left in the lobby, too. That’s about when I felt like I was going to puke up the sips of tea that hadn’t been able to pass by the steak, so I went to the bathroom.
I did my usual routine in the bathroom, but on the third or fourth retch, I saw more than tea was coming up. No chunk of steak, but still, that meant I was no longer totally blocked. Casey came in and said the nurse was calling me. I asked her to tell the nurse to wait, that I was busy vomiting, and to bring me the powerade. I retched some more, and felt more confident I was in the clear. When Casey came back with the powerade, I chugged it, and it went down. All of it.
The nurse wanted me to come out. She said they could do an exam, but that didn’t seem very appealing, nor did I expect it would be useful, so I declined. Instead I washed my face, grabbed my ID from the receptionist (who was now making what looked like a personal phone call), and we took off.
At home Casey made me tea with honey, and I apologized to Caitlin (who told me not to worry about it) for screwing up our night out on the town. I got in bed, sipped my tea (which all went down easily) and Casey cuddled me to sleep.