Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Cracker That Almost Killed Me.

Currently, I cough. I'm a little bewildered. Almost kicking the bucket in a soup store, in front of a full restaurant will do that to ya.

I should wait a few hours till I'm coherent enough to tell this here story, but Amber will be home in 20 minutes or so and I don't think I'll have time in the next day or two during the move.

I went to my favorite soup eatin'-hole about an hour ago, the "Soup Stop" on Broadway and 79th. I walked in, stomach a'rumbling. I smiled and rubbed my cold hands as I observed that they were serving my favorite Chicken Chili. The worker was pleasant enough as she poured me a nice hearty bowl. I chose crackers over bread - those little round soup crackers - and sat myself at the table with a nice view of the busy street.

I poured a big nice pile of crackers onto my chili and noticed that there were two crackers that were joined together. You know... how those chalky communion crackers do sometimes. "Well," thought I, "that'll be my first bite by golly." Hungry has heck, I scooped the perfect amount of chili to match the double cracker and slipped the white plastic soup spoon into my mouth. Hot. Hot as fire.

Startled, I took a breath. And down the esophagus the double cracker went.

I don't know how many of you have actually choked, but it is nothing like in the movies. There is no coughing. There is only heaving, and silence. No air. I knew in that split second, that I would be a gonner without help. Not wanting to cause a scene, I thought I'd try a quick drink of my cream soda that was un-opened. (Cream soda is a nice compliment to chili btw) I twisted the top, took a swig and back out on the table half of it poured.

No more proof needed. I stood up, walked directly to the Hispanic cashier and the dramatic scene began.

I pointed to my back and motioned to pound. Luckily, there were some older Latino women working who understood the motions and they told him what to do. He pounded a few times and a little came out but one quick, tiny inhale and I was choking again. The restaurant grew silent and panicky. Everyone was looking. "Call an ambulance!" someone yelled. Another worker went for the phone while my new best friend pounded some more. Nothing. The pounding wasn't getting me anywhere so I tried to motion to try the Heimlich maneuver. He didn't know how to do it at first, and again, the older lady told him what to do and he put his arms around me and started squeezing me.

And as he yanked my body up and down, I thought about my wife. I thought about the ambulance they were calling. I wondered if I could make it without air long enough for the ambulance to get there. "No. Dear Lord, I'm doing that thing... that thing where the life flashes before your eyes... please don't let me die here" mixed with "I can't believe I'm choking on a cracker in front of these people. I could die. I might die. I'm not going to die. Squeeze harder buddy." The squeezing and plunging grew more and more violent until finally the chili and cracker came lose and spewed all over the floor. On the last pump, I think he may have cracked a rib as he was growing more and more scared.

Leaning over, I took my first breath, and coughed. I have never been so thankful for coughing. I felt guilty. I felt terrible for making a mess. I felt horrible for ruining everyone's dinner. I looked up and the guy that saved my life smiled and reached his hand out to me as if we had just accomplished something together, as a team. I wanted to hug the kid as he smiled but I was coughing to hard so I grabbed his hand instead and tried to say thank you. Some sort of rumbly thing resembling thank you came out, followed by an apology. Another woman approached with a glass of water. I apologized to her.

I took a swig.

Safe. Breathing. Alive. Almost choked to death. On a cracker.


Two things: First, never again will I reach for the double cracker at communion. As a matter of fact, any and all crackers will recieve a suspicious and barbed glare before they are consumed. If they are consumed. Second, never again will I gripe about the hispanic workers in my building. Who knows? They might just be my life-saver tomorrow.

Thank you Lord for the guy that saved my life today. Thank you for my wife and for my family and for everything else I've been a big baby about for the past 4 years. Amen.

Those little crackers will now an forever be called, "Choke Crackers." Maybe you guys can find a better name for them.


Anonymous said...

Nope. Choke Crackers works.

I'm so glad you're alive. Stay that way.

Super Churchlady said...

That is INCREDIBLE! and...SCARY. Thank God someone was in there that was strong enough to do the H-maneuver.

FYI - there is an international hand signal for choking.

Chaotic Hammer said...


I've never quite needed a full-on Heimlich maneuver, but have had something go down far enough that I was unable to breathe for several seconds. It's a bad, bad feeling.

Glad you're OK. And I'm with Cach. "Choke Crackers" is just dandy.

Shaun Groves said...

I love you, man.

I almost never got to tell you that.

By the way, if you were to kick it and Becky was to kick it would you mind if...

P.D. said...

Got linked into your post from Shauns blog. Scary, yet interesting story. Glad you pulled through.

cool dad said...

Wow. Talk about your life-and-death situations. Wait, I guess you just did.

Praise God that you're alive. Just another reminder of how fragile we are and how precious this time that God gives us is!

euphrony said...

Glad you had enough sense not to completely embarrass yourself by ruining those people's soup.

And glad you had enough sense not to die.

And Shaun, really, that could have waited until comment number nine or ten.

Anonymous said...

No it couldn't Euph. Have you met her?

Beeki said...

Glad you are okay, Ward! :) We love you guys.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Beeki was really upset when I told her the story yesterday. We totally love you, man. No more choking.

Seth Ward said...

Quick comment from the phone... thank you my friends. It is good to be loved. My throat is pretty sore still feels like it has the cracker in it and my ribs are sore but I'll live to eat another cracker. Soft foods for a few days though.

Cach, thanks bud. I plan on it.

SCL, please tell me the signal. Does it involve drooling, bulging eyes an open mouth?

C-hammer, no, it is weird felling indeed. No fun. It is a weird thing to realize that as soon as the choking begins, its like someone turns a 4 minute hour glass over and begins the countdown to your death.

Shaun, love you too man. And yes, if that happens you have my permission spend your later years chiseling statues of both Becky in I somewhere on a lonesome plain in Texas, eating only what you can catch with your bare hands over an open fire. If you really want to touch my heart you may dress up in a Kilt every sunday and attempt amazing grace on the bagpipes as the sun rises on your master-stone-craft. At least... I think that's what you meant... if not, yes, you may write hit songs about both of us and not feel guilty about making piles of money from it.

p.d.,glad to meet you. Drop by anytime.

cool dad, that is amazing... that's exactly, word for word what my dad said. And he is the coolest dad ever.

euph, every time I think of it I get a little emotional displacement. There is something inherently funny about the Heimlich maneuver.

Beeki and Cach, we love you guys too.

Anonymous said...

Seth, glad to hear you're OK. What a scare for you and a reminder for us to be careful when eating.
You weren't the only one to have a close encounter on Thursday. Go to the website to the Pei Wei story. Mike & Joe are lucky to be alive!
We miss you guys.
Susan H.

MamasBoy said...

Boy, that sounds pretty scary. I'm also a bit surprised that it would have such lasting effects regarding what you could eat for the next couple days. I can just imagine the headlines if you had kicked the bucket. "Former Texan Dies Trying to Eat New York Chili" or "Recent Texan Transplant Dies After Eating Out One Too Many Times in NY" You might have even given Texas restaurants like Sodolak's a good name... as in at least nobody ever kicked the bucket on Sodolak's premises.

On a more serious note, we're all glad you didn't widow your wife and leave her to move all by herself into a brand new, empty without you apt.


kristin said...

woah, scary. Glad that everything worked out okay. Thank God for those people that helped you.

Anonymous said...

how about choky crackers. or not. i guess i should review the heimlich maneuver i learned in first aid classes. never know when they'll come in handy. they said that if you are by yourself when you're choking, you can do a heimlich on yourself by ramming your stomach up against the side of the table or grab a plate and ram that up your stomach as well. and hey, i guess better a broken rib that a guy who died on some choky crackers. =)

The Secret Life of Kat said...

Ok. So I'm eternally late in posting this, but...Seth...I'm glad you're ok!