Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Today's first post - a fable

You can look forward to two posts today. This one, a harrowing (and not a little disgusting) story with a strong moral attached to it, and the second a suggestion to the ratings agencies about areas of their business that they could consider.

So, first the gross story. I woke up during the night with a touch of asthma and, bleary-eyed, took my ventolin inhaler. When I breathed in sharply, I started choking on a large blockage that had got stuck at the back of my throat. As I was trying to cough the blockage back out, I felt it crawl up the back of my throat and into the back of my nose. After lots of snorting, coughing and spewing I brought something up into the sink. When I put the light on and looked, I saw that it was an earwig. A live earwig, somewhat stunned and surprised, trying to get out of the sink.

But the blockage wasn't cleared. There was another one, and after half an hour of trying to get it out in the same way, it was clear that it was much, much more stubborn than the first. So we called NHS Direct:

Mrs Gripe: 'do you have any tips for people who have inhaled live earwigs that are now stuck in the back of their nose and throat?'

NHS Direct: 'you have done what?'

Mrs Gripe: 'it's not me, it's Major Gripe. He inhaled a couple of live earwigs and has got one out but the other won't move. He's choking and his hands are turning blue. Do you have any advice for how to get it out?'

NHS Direct: 'Um, there's nothing in our guidance or our training about this. I think we would probably send ambulances for things like this if he's choking.'

Usually, NHS Direct offer an ambulance for pretty much anything. I remember being away on business and asking for the location of a GP because I had a chest infection and didn't know where I could find a doctor in the middle of Exmoor near the hotel. They took me through the standard questions, and when I answered the question 'do you have pain in your chest' with the answer 'yes, I have just told you I am calling about a chest infection', they tried to send me an ambulance in case I was unable to distinguish between the symptoms of a chest infection and those of a heart attack. I had to go through all sorts of disclaimers to waive the ambulance before finally being given the GP's address. Anyway, on this occasion I accepted the offer because I was, indeed, turning blue.

After 4 hours in Lewisham A&E (no wait though, thank you Lewisham), with an Ear Nose & Throat specialist who had been roused from his (presumably earwig-free) dreaming to come and see to me, a chest x-ray, a throat and face x-ray, talk of possibly being put under general anaesthetic to have it found and removed, and a drunk man banging his head on the wall and shouting swearwords and threats in the cubicle next to us, the earwig has finally moved. It is either in my stomach, being digested as we speak, or in my lung. We will know in a couple of days - if I get an infection then it is in my lung, if I don't then it was in my stomach.

One touching element to this story is that the first friend to whom I recounted the tale conveyed much concern for my wellbeing in his response: "you snorted a live earwig? Wicked!"

Now the moral of this story should be plain to see. But for the avoidance of all doubt, I will make it clear. It is twofold:

  1. Do not leave your inhaler out on the side next to your bed. Earwigs may crawl in and try to make a marital home there.
  2. No matter how sleepy you may be, always check your inhaler before you use it. Trust me, there is very little that is less sleep-disturbing than choking on live earwigs.
Here endeth the lesson.


kate said...

Oh my god thats gross. I had an icident last night where the only inhaler i could find was in a handbag and hadnt been used for a while, i gave the inhaler a good shake and took a deep breathth in swiftly wish i had checked it as god nows what fluff and crap was in it. horible horible experience.
Not as bad as earwigs er .

Roberto said...

Magnificient. You should have posted the X-rays showing the little crawley firmly stuck in your throat, that sort of stuff tends to send reader ratings sky high. You may have even been Dugg!. Make sure next time you take the bed back indoors, sleeping in the garden won't do anymore!
Seriously though, it must have been quite a disturbing few hours. Good thing you're ok.

Major Gripe said...

I did get dugg - only 3 times though.

Charles Pooter said...

That is one of the most disturbing things I've ever read. Well done!