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From Choking to Changed

Last Tuesday evening, I was sitting at the table eating dinner with the kids. It was our 4th consecutive day without my husband at home (he was on an extended work trip to Australia), and though things had been going really well for us, all things considered, I was predictably exhausted by that hour and looked forward to bedtime. It had been a productive and successful day, and I was ready to relax and unwind.

Unlike me, however, my kids were feeling fully energetic and a bit mischievous this particular evening. Despite my persistent request to please keep dinnertime calm and peaceful, they ramped up their silly evening antics and had each other laughing and joking and carrying on, as kids of tired parents will often do. I was doing my best to ignore them at first, but was getting steadily more annoyed as the noise and tomfoolery escalated.

In a single ill-timed inhale, I attempted once more to shush them, and in so doing, immediately sent the partially chewed food in my mouth down my windpipe. The spasmodic coughing, sputtering, and eye-watering quickly commenced, and three little pairs of eyes watched with sudden interest as I tried to dislodge whatever bits of food had gone down the wrong tube. Thankfully my airway was never fully blocked and I didn't all-out choke, but no amount of coughing was enough to clear my throat. I went to bed later that evening feeling vexed, still dry-hacking, and obsessing over the discomfort of that foreign object stubbornly stuck somewhere in my chest. I could feel it and visualize it sitting there, mocking me.

Over the next few days, the coughing continued and my throat became more irritated and swollen. It hurt to swallow. I began losing my voice, which was dry and raspy. By the time the weekend arrived and my husband returned, it appeared all that vigorous but unsuccessful coughing had developed into a more severe respiratory issue. (Side note: Did you know aspiration can lead to pneumonia?) Added to the persistent feeling of trapped food in my trachea was sinus congestion, sore throat, headache, body aches, mild fever followed by a chill, chest tightness, watery eyes, runny nose, pressure in my ears, violent sneezing, stubborn fatigue, and all the malaise that would normally accompany something like the flu. As I type this, it's almost a week after the near-choking incident, and I'm still spending most of the day in bed resting or dead asleep with my box of tissues and tall glass of water close by my side. It does seem like I'm turning the corner on it though...whatever it is.

I took a pillow and blanket for a lovely outdoor nap on the kids' trampoline

When something so odd and unnecessary rudely interrupts regular life as I know it, I try to look for some kind of meaning or lesson underneath it all. Being sick and out of commission is no sunny Sunday walk in the park, but even so, I've managed to identify a few pearls in this experience.

  1. It gave me an opportunity to teach my kids what to do in a severe choking incident. "Mom, what should we have done if you were really choking?" That was a sobering question! I showed them the universal sign for choking and we talked about and pretend-demoed how to give the Heimlich maneuver to another person. I also explained how to replicate the process if they were alone and needed to perform it on themselves. I pray they never need to act upon that information, but it was a valuable conversation nonetheless.

  2. It created a lasting impression on them about keeping mealtimes reasonably calm. They now understand (and I've been duly reminded) why talking, laughing, or horseplaying while chewing is a dangerous combination, and they've been apologizing all week for not obeying me the first time.

  3. It has given me a deep appreciation for how capable and resilient my body really is. The addition of each new symptom this past week compounded my misery of course, but also made me realize how hard my body works to correct what has gone wrong. I'm convinced our bodies are wise and know what to do, regardless of the situation! I'm not saying medical intervention isn't ever necessary, but I feel like we've been trained to race to the doctor and pharmacy immediately for every small thing instead of trusting our bodies to heal intuitively. We are impatient and love the allure of a quick fix. Healing, however, takes time.

  4. It has given me a chance to model for my children how to heal and recover. The "old me" would have been popping Tylenol for the headache, Sudafed to mask the daytime congestion, green Nyquil to help with sleep at night, red Chloraseptic spray and mountains of Luden's red cherry cough drops to address the sore throat, and whatever other artificially-flavored, rainbow-colored pharmaceuticals I could find to help me escape the discomfort. Now I use none of those things. They aren't even in the house. (Full disclosure - I did use organic elderberry throat lozenges as a desperate last resort). Instead of all of those modern interventions, I have been sleeping like it's going out of style, drinking tons of water and organic loose leaf tea with drizzles of honey, eating well - especially homemade soup with bone broth, increasing my immune support supplements, eating mandarins with almost every meal, siting outside in the warm sunshine and fresh air, taking a daily warm shower, and generally resting as much as I can. Instead of taking chemical-laden, mass-produced, manmade medicine to fight against what my body is trying to do, I'm implementing simple timeless strategies that support and encourage those natural processes instead. Is it possible to embrace the discomfort and learn from it? I believe it is. And my children are watching me do just that. I'm grateful for that opportunity.

I don't know for sure if the shenanigan-induced choking event cause whatever illness I developed, or if I simply had the sad misfortune of picking up some other virus within the same few days. Was it bronchitis? The flu? I know it wasn't Covid because I tested for that using an at-home kit from my husband's 2020-21 stash that was required for his ongoing employment. (Remember those days?)

But all of that really doesn't matter, because the silver lining of this whole experience is the realization that I have changed! And for the better. I no longer seek out pharmaceuticals as my first or even second line of defense, not even when I feel miserable. I don't even consider the OTC kind that have more damaging ingredients than helpful ones. I know they can't deliver the relief that only time, proper rest, and healing nutrients can produce. And while I appreciate my health care providers and the guidance they can provide, I am learning to trust my own body and give it more time to do what it is divinely created to do... Heal.

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