Time of Death: 11:38am on 4/20/2009
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
-Mark Twain….and now me.
Never in my life have I questioned my mortality. Usually, when a person loses a loved one in an untimely fashion, it makes them evaluate and appreciate their own life a bit more. Up to this point, all of my experiences with death have been natural, meaning that they were not a shock and I was fully prepared for them to happen. Grief for the inevitable is, well…inevitable, but will usually subside once a reasonable period has gone by.
What I experienced on Monday was by no means natural and was definitely a shock. I guess I’ll start with Sunday, April 19, 2009…my 30th birthday.
All was going well. I had just thrown a bowling ball over 24mph, scored over 100 twice, and had a blast with my family. All that was left to top off the evening was a trip to a restaurant I had never been to, Bennihana’s.
Most of you are probably aware of the set up for this restaurant, but if you are not, let me educate you. Its basically a large group that sits around a grill and you watch the cook prepare your meal with all the glitz and glamour of a circus clown. Flipping spatulas and seasonings around your heads and even launching egg shells into his stereotypical chef hat. You would think that being able to watch the chef prepare your meal would make you confident of its cleanliness and correct preparation. We shall see…
The menu consisted on a few dozen items, of which 99% had the term “Hibachi” in it. I had originally been told from other sources that their menu was rather generic and everything would taste the same. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the variety they offered.
I had it already in my mind that I wanted fish or shrimp, so when my future brother-in-law discovered the “Seafood Diablo” at the bottom of the menu, it sounded like the right choice. It was a spicy noodle meal, and we both decided to order it.
I would like to spend a moment deciphering the name “Seafood Diablo.” I did not take Spanish in high school. However, most would agree that any fifth grader with an above average intelligence who watches enough television would be able to tell you that “Diablo” means “Devil.” Now “Seafood” on the other hand, can have several meanings. According to dictionary.com:
any edible fish or shellfish from the sea used for food.
Funny how the word “edible” needed to be put in the definition. If a non-edible fish was used for food, I would think that it would not be classified as “food.” I have seen people eat some ridiculous food items, but for the most part, they were at least deemed edible. For example, I’ve actually seen someone eat a breaded deep fried Snickers bar. ‘Nuff said. To say “edible fish” denotes that somewhere out there is a non-edible fish that is being used for food. This is where my experience seems to go awry.
Having reached the 30 year mark without any signs of allergy to anything, I had no reason to be weary of what I ingest. The “seafood” meal that I consumed was absolutely delicious and I even made the comment that it ranks up there in the top 5 meals of my life. It was spicy, but no overbearing. The fish was tender, well cooked, and oh so delectable. I wasn’t exactly sure of what type of fish it was, but that didn’t matter…at the time.
Thanks to the sleuthing skills of my almost brother-in-law, Chef Paul, it was determined that the “seafood” in question was scallops, shrimp, and calamari. Squid tentacles. I don’t believe that I have ever eaten calamari, and now I know that I never will again. Which brings us to Monday morning, 9:00AM.
It was a normal drive to work. Jeff and I were waxing quixotic as usual and we arrived right on time as we normally do. A quick trip to the bathroom and a refill on my coffee, and I was ready to hit my cubical.
Not even 5 minutes at my desk and I started having problems breathing. I gasped for each breath, and of course, was getting slightly nervous. My throat was swelling shut, I could feel my airpipe getting smaller with every inhalation. I recall my mother at one point telling me to put my hands over my head if I am having trouble breathing, so I did that. No help. I was starting to get very scared and went over to Jeff’s cube to get a second opinion. He looked at me and could tell that something was wrong.
“I can’t breathe!” I told him and within 5 seconds I was sitting in Jeff’s cube with at least 5 self-proclaimed experts at my disposal. Being a rookie, I was impressed at how many of my workmates rushed to my aid. Now I was scared, breathless, AND the center of attention.
Ultimately, the group decided that I must be having an allergic reaction and the paramedics were called. They carted me out strapped on a bed with oxygen up my nose. By the time they loaded me up in the ambulance, my face was tingling and my lips felt strange. I could see Jeff following along in my van, chasing the ambulance like a desperate lawyer. I have always been able to count on him to “get my back” in times like this.
At the emergency room, they decided to hook up an IV, and pump me full of steroids and Benedryl to offset the swelling. Within 20 minutes, I was able to breathe better. A lung guy came in and checked me out and said I was alright. They wanted to do a chest x-ray to see if there was anything else, so a gal came and carted me off to another room. This was the first time that day that I died.
After doing the x-ray, the nurse went off to see if it turned out clear and left me in the room laying on my mobile bed. Another nurse came in and saw my bed there and yelled out to my nurse, “Hey, your guy in here, what is his TOD?” at which point I heard a crash and my nurse came running around the way and stuck her head right in my face and said, “Sir, are you okay!?” I said yes and asked her what TOD meant. “Time of Death,” she replied at which point the other nurse says, “Oh God, I am sooooo sorry sir! I meant to say TOA, Time of Arrival.” She was extremely apologetic and I think she was afraid she was going to get yelled at, but I reassured her that this was the one highlight of my day, so far. Its not every day that I get to die and live to tell about it.
Once back in my room, I relayed the recent events to Jeff, which he also found amusing. I thought it was great that they let him back to my room while I was going through this. As I said before, I can always count of Jeff in a time of need, or so I thought.
I had to pee. I sent Jeff out of the room and proceeded to fill up one of those plastic urinal things they had given me. I was proud of the fact that I did not spill or overflow it, because I could definitely see that the potential was there to do so. Now, to get back into bed. I was hooked up to so many cords on my arms that I felt like a marionette. I called Jeff back into the room and as I was getting back into bed, I twisted around and yanked one of the cords out of the monitoring machine. It beeped. A lot. I turned to Jeff. “Dude! Plug me back in. I can’t reach it!” “No way! I’m not touching your plugs!” he replied. “Come on! I’m beeping and I can’t reach it!” “NO! I’m not plugging you back in!”
Eventually he came to his senses and plugged me in. I know now that I cannot rely on Jeff to make sure I stay plugged in. On my deathbed, I do NOT want Jeff there, unless someone else is there too. I have to admit that this brush with death was slightly funnier and less serious than the first.
Eventually the doctor came in and declared that “We are not 100% positive that what you experienced was an allergic reaction, although we cannot rule it out either. Any number of things could have caused this.” Let me do a translation: “We don’t know what the heck happened, so go home and take these pills just in case.”
I took the next day off to rest up and let the medicine do its thing. It did. I am now back at work and everyone was glad to see me up and running again. I am convinced that this was definitely an allergic reaction to calamari, and that the steroids fixed me. After a day rest and half a day of work so far, I am almost back to 100%.
As a side note, I do not regret eating the meal. I really did enjoy myself and thought that the meal was great. Overall, it was a good birthday celebration, but with the world’s worst hangover. This was the first time in my life that I was scared for my life. I think it was fitting that this occurred immediately after I turned 30. I’m no longer that invincible twenty something guy. Now I am an old man that has to watch what he eats and take a little better care of himself.
Thanks to Paul for being educated in the Culinary Arts. I now know to stop sucking on squid tentacles in my spare time.
Thanks to my mother for thinking she can get to
Thanks to my co-workers for making me feel like I was starring in my own personal episode of “House.”
And of course, thanks to Jeff for finally plugging me back in and being there to taxi my tired butt back home. I owe you a sick day, dude.