Stick A Fork In It: I May Be Done For

The danger has passed. I think. Maybe.

And, by passed, I mean literally passed through my GI tract. Not that I checked. Then again, this entire anxiety-inducing, loss-of-sleep and possibly life-threatening episode may have been a fork-induced false alarm (one of the five worst types of false alarms). Then again, it could be lodged in my heart. Or liver.

Let me explain…

I was at a local Central Ohio restaurant recently, one of those healthy, build-it-yourself places where you put kale, carrots and other nutritious stuff on top of purple rice. I was dining alone, was halfway through my meal and eating way too fast, as I’m prone to do. Suddenly, I look down at my plastic fork and notice one of the tines was gone. Snapped off at the base.

“That’s strange,” I thought to myself. “I wonder what happened to it?”


I looked on the tray, around the tray, on my lap, on the floor … and in my rice bowl. Nothing. No plastic tine. Just kale, carrots and the protein of my choosing.

“Oh no, it couldn’t be, could it? No way. I would have felt something going down, wouldn’t I? Yeah, I would have felt something sharp and pointy. There’s no way I could have swallowed it. No way. This fork came with a missing tine and I’m just now noticing it. That has to be it.”

Then again, I do eat really fast. Like super fast. I barely chew. And the tine is small and thin and all plasticky and … holy crap. Suddenly, it felt like there was something stuck in the back of my throat. Something small. And sharp. And it hurt. I tried coughing it up. Nothing. I tried again. Louder, harder. Several people looked over at me. A couple look worried, others looked annoyed.

“Sorry to bother everyone, I may have just swallowed a fork tine and could die! Is anyone here a doctor? A GI specialist?”

Nevertheless, despite the fact that my life may have been in peril, I continued eating. Hey, where I grew up you don’t waste food. But I ate a little slower and more carefully, and drank a lot of water. And tried to put the possibility that I had swallowed the tine out of my mind. But I couldn’t. The brain is funny that way. I began to feel discomfort in my throat and then in my neck. “Holy crap, it’s already lodged in my neck, it’s going to pierce my jugular and I’ll bleed out. Right here in this upscale and healthy, fast-casual restaurant.”

Later that day and for the next few, I felt tingling and stabbing sensations at various points along my GI tract as the tine worked its way through me. If I had swallowed it. The pains seemed to get worse and make themselves known in more and more place the more I thought about it. It be lodged in my heart at this very moment, about to poke through a ventricle. And I love my ventricles.

My next mistake was looking up “what happens when you swallow something sharp” on the internet. A woman who swallowed a toothpick developed nausea, vomiting and low blood pressure. Turns out the toothpick was lodged in her liver and caused an abscess and blood poisoning.

A doctor on a website that seemed legitimate suggested a trip to the ER after swallowing something sharp and pointy, like a toothpick. Seems a lot of people swallow toothpicks. Not so much with plastic fork tines.

The ER? No way, I have crappy health insurance. It would cost a fortune, what with all those tests, scans and operations to remove the tine lodged in my liver. And I’m not even sure I swallowed the damn tine. It would be totally embarrassing to go the ER, tell them what I think I may have swallowed, and for them to then tell me – after hours of tests, all the while wearing that humiliating gown that’s impossible to tie properly – that I hadn’t swallowed anything other than kale and carrots. I’ll wait it out a few days and see what happens. I’ll check to see if there’s blood in my urine or a searing pain in my gut that just won’t go away. Or my heart or liver. And then, maybe, probably, I’ll go to the ER. I might have a Groupon somewhere.

Maybe I should I ask Susan what to do. She was, after all, a nurse for 25 years and knows all about anatomy. Nah, she’ll get all worried, and then lecture me about mindful eating. “You eat so fast, do you even taste or enjoy your food? No wonder you swallowed a fork tine.”

It’s a couple weeks later and …

I’m fine. I think. I hope. I’m pretty sure I didn’t swallow a plastic fork tine (knock on wood). Then again, from time to time (tine to tine?) it does feel like something’s going on in my gut and my throat is a little scratchy. And my chest has been sore the past few days. And, since I started writing this post, a new pain in my liver has developed. Why did I have to go and Google it? And, how long did it take that lady who swallowed the toothpick to develop all those terrible symptoms and get an abscessed liver? A week? A month? Even more importantly, did it kill her? I better Google her and find out.

Then again, maybe that’s not such a good idea. Ignorance is bliss, especially when it comes to the mysterious case of the disappearing fork tine.

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