That Time My Throat Tried to Kill Me


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Blurred figures of people with medical uniforms in hospital corridor

Caroline Restrepo, Writer

It was a morning like any other when I had one of the worst medical experiences since breaking my leg. I took the antibiotic pill I’d been taking for weeks without issue and got to school just fine. In my math class, I was poring over a test paper and feeling highly stressed. My stress only increased when I felt a sudden tight pain in my throat and chest. It felt like someone was strangling me from the inside. I, like an idiot, assumed it’d pass and waited until I was crying from physical pain to ask to see the nurse. I didn’t know what was happening, so a panic attack was soon added to this pain. I was picked up from school and eventually calmed down, but I didn’t know this was just the beginning of a problem that would last several days. I noticed a bit of pain eating, specifically in my chest, but it wasn’t too severe. Once again, choosing stupidity, I ignored it. It was probably just sore muscles, right?

I woke up the next day to face an awful realization. I made breakfast as usual and noticed lingering discomfort, but I tried swallowing. It took a second to get to my chest. Still, the pop-tart I chose to stuff in my face that morning scraped against my throat like a cat trying to desperately avoid being loaded in the crate that gets it to the vet. I immediately attempted to wash it down with some milk or water, but that didn’t help. I ended up wasting most of it and started crying from the pain again. Fun. I was able to eat some of my school lunch that day and felt better. However, I can’t determine the nutritional value of chickpeas, pepperoni, and a slice of cheese. It was something, at least. I can’t remember dinner that night, but it went the same as breakfast. That time, crying had the side effect of making my parents angry because I was stubbornly refusing to quit eating while complaining the entire time.

I had a visit to the doctor’s office that would’ve gone well if my father and I hadn’t neglected a detail of my medical information, but I’ll get to that later. She determined it was most likely esophageal spasms due to my anxiety disorder and the stress I was under at the time. It seemed reasonable enough, but this story isn’t over, so you already know that wasn’t the answer.

That night, I tried eating, and I couldn’t. I wanted to, but it was impossible to swallow almost anything other than plain water. Each time a morsel came down, I had an intense pain in my chest that just persisted even long after it was down. The closest thing I can describe it to is that feeling when you swallow a piece of a chip and can feel it go down uncomfortably. However, it was doing that for any food and was more intense. I tried something softer, some guacamole. It was fine until I realized whatever was going on down there made lime juice comparable to hellfire in terms of pain. I started sobbing again, which understandably upset my family. My dad, trying to comfort me, went and got milkshakes. I came upstairs and drank mine while watching TV and calming down from my outburst. The cold of the drink and the smoothness of the milk made it a bit more bearable if I didn’t swallow a bit of fruit.

The next few days are a bit blurry, and I only remember being doggone tired. I stopped eating altogether due to the pain. I just drank whatever I could, hoping that’d make up for it. It did not.

After crying at Jefferson’s and explaining to the kind waitress that we’d already tried every antacid under the sun, I remember going home and falling asleep very quickly. I could choose other anecdotes, but it’s really all the same. Seven more vignettes of exhaustion would only bloat this story. You get the point.

After multiple days, my parents decided enough was enough. The earliest we could see a specialist in Cartersville would be about three months later, so my parents took me to an emergency center in another town. My mother was very put out by the whole situation.

“Three months. Three months! Can you believe that?! That has to be the most ridiculous sh…oot I ever heard!” She angrily exclaimed while we were driving, only narrowly able to keep her tongue in check. “Do they seriously think you can go three months without eating?!”

“Starvation is a social construct.” I jokingly replied. My mother only huffed in frustration. I had heard this before from her. She has a tough time letting go of things. While I love her, I know anything I tell her will inevitably make it to five other people in the next few days. She loves talking, but I never doubt that she’ll be there to back me up when I need it.

We had to wait some time to get a room in the emergency center, and it took several hours before we finally got to see someone. Yet again, my parents didn’t have the same patience I did. Once we finally got a doctor, she looked at my throat and asked a few questions. Do you have a history of conditions, what medications are you on, etc.? I answered no to any medications, but my mother reminded me I was on an antibiotic for acne problems. After a few more questions, the doctor nodded thoughtfully.

“You should stop taking that.” She told us. When we asked why, she then explained that it was known to rarely cause esophagitis, meaning I was one of those exceptional cases. Hooray. She said I should avoid acidic foods or anything that might irritate the throat, stop taking acne medication, and take a different one before meals until the irritation ceased. It was an incredibly relieving experience.

I was just glad to know I wasn’t dying, and my family immediately grabbed the medication we needed to help with the pain. I struggled with eating for a couple of days, even with medicine, but I recovered in time for a family dinner of my mom’s awesome chili. By the time Thanksgiving came, the incident was but a fading memory.

Although the pain is gone, I am more mindful of what I eat. Whenever my throat feels a bit raw or sore, I make myself some tea with honey to keep it from progressing. I also find myself avoiding certain foods. One, in particular, is vanilla shakes or other creamy drinks with a similar taste. They were all I could have without pain, and I was sick of them by the time my throat was healed. Even the thought of those drinks is repulsive to me. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually, but I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of reminding friends and family of the time my throat tried to kill me.