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Of Lollipops and Near-Death Experiences

What do you do when you’re in your cubicle on the 12th floor, after everyone else in your office has gone home for the day and you are trying to suck air as if your life depended on it? You don’t even know what just happened, only that you can’t breathe.


As I sit in front of my computer, sucking on a Tootsie Pop, I accidentally inhale some orange flavored spit and my throat closes up. While panicking, I try hard to inhale through a pinprick-sized air hole in my throat, producing a weird sound that resembles radio static.

I figure if I’m choking on something, I could just pass out and then my throat would relax – something I’d heard in a First Aid class if the Heimlich maneuver didn’t work. I can’t do the Heimlich on myself, because, well, there is nothing to maneuver. Just sugary orange saliva.

But what if my throat doesn’t relax after losing consciousness? I’ll die. Still, I swivel my chair around and bend over, so that if I do pass out, I’ll be closer to the floor already and maybe I won’t hurt myself too much on the way down. Meanwhile, the pin hole radio static continues as I try to breathe.

OK, I haven’t passed out yet, but I still can’t get any air. I can’t call 911 because what would I say? Nothing. Because I’m choking. And even if by some fancy schmancy techno thing they figure out where I’m calling from, I’m imagine them stumbling into our office building and asking the guard which desk a certain phone number might be located, the guard looking it up, the guard walking them to the elevator because he has to swipe the key card to allow them access to my floor, and before they reach my desk, I’m on the floor doing a weird yoga looking headstand crumpled against the side of my desk because I overshot the estimated trajectory of my fainting out of my chair. And I’m dead anyway.

So THAT isn’t an option.

What does this choking session clock in at so far, thirty seconds maybe?

How could I be choking on my own spit? As a last ditch effort to avoid dying and/or passing out, I try to cough and a bunch of air goes through, opening up my throat a little. Just enough to choke and cough and get in some air to choke and cough some more.

When my body settles down some, I break out in a shaky, clammy sweat. I don’t feel so good.

Then I hear the voices on my speaker phone and I remember that I’ve been on a conference call for the last three hours from a production problem we are all working on. A couple of colleagues are on the floor below me and others are in offices from the east coast.

I think, Oh my God, I hope they didn’t hear me. I must have sounded like a freak. I check the phone. Whew! It’s muted. They didn’t hear a thing.

That’s right, I was relieved that no one heard me dying, because oh my God, how embarrassing would THAT have been?

Now, I am not prone to drama. Nor am I a hypochondriac. So when I saw my doctor and told him what had happened and that I couldn’t breathe and he said, “Well, if you couldn’t breathe, you would have died”, I felt somewhat belittled.

This heartless bastard, who is lucky if he sees me once every two years, sent me home with an asthma inhaler, because apparently, if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t breathe, just use this inhaler, which by the way, I don’t know if you know this, but inhaler usage (and I’m getting this information directly from the instructions) requires INHALING!

As weeks, then months went by, I assumed it was an isolated incident, although I could never bring another Tootsie Pop to my mouth.

Fast forward a year and a half to this past July. I woke up at 5am with a closed-up throat, unable to breathe. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of sleepy and disoriented at 5am. Plus, I hadn’t fallen asleep that night until 3am, so I was extra disrupted by this disturbance.

I was in L.A. when this happened, so I was by myself. Again. Wait, that’s not true, I have a roommate, although I’m not sure I was aware of it at that moment. At any rate, I was alone in my room.

I remembered the last incident and told myself to cough. But I hesitated. What if it didn’t work this time? Then I’d be all out of options.

By the way, why can’t our brains work this fast, say, when we are on Jeopardy!, and you need that answer (e.g. What is a sperm whale?) before everyone else? That thing, where time slows down, and you can think of thirty-seven pieces of information or have debates with yourself, and it feels like five minutes have passed, but you know you can’t hold your breath that long, so it must have been less than a minute? Yeah, THAT thing. What is that?

I weighed the pros and the cons, and the pros won. I coughed. Then I went through the choking/coughing thing again until I was better.

Well, I decided that was NOT OK and went on an internet research rampage to find out WTF was going on. It turns out, I’m not the only one this has happened to. It also turns out that this happens to people who have acid-reflux, which I had been ignoring, not realizing it’s a CONDITION that you should DO SOMETHING ABOUT.

Acid reflux is not some rare tropical disease about which DOCTORS would be ignorant. Why couldn’t my doctor (who, if I have anything to say about it, is no longer my doctor) have known this? At minimum, why couldn’t he have taken enough of an interest to find out?

Actually, the Internetz also told me that the throat-closing thing can be exacerbated by asthma, so my doctor who has no soul, knew a LITTLE something, but still…how do you use an inhaler when you can’t breathe, I ask you?

Goat Thing of the Day

Hey, who wants to see a funny little 2 minute goat movie that TravelSavvyMom‘s Jamie Pearson made?

Click here if the embedded movie above doesn’t work.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. aloooop says:

    I’ve had the exact same thing happen to me exactly twice. Both times, immediately after finishing a tootsie roll pop. I’m not sure what it is, but it was terrifying both times.

    EDIT: I don’t think I have acid reflux.

    1.  As an update, I haven’t had a single Tootsie Roll pop since. I’m too scared. Also? I haven’t had a choking incident since then either, whether I’m asleep or awake (fingers crossed).

  2. […] anyone ever choked on a tootsie pop <– yes, and I blogged about […]

  3. honeywine says:

    I didn’t realize it could even do that. That’s crazy scary!

  4. HeatherPride says:

    OK, that is some seriously scary stuff going on there! I once choked on a turkey leg at a Renaissance festival and the troubador was just about to save me when I coughed that chunk of turkey right up in a big pile of chunky goo. Is that more awesome than choking on a lollipop? Having a man in tights ready to rescue you?

  5. snarkolepsy says:

    Came over from wherehotcomestodie.
    Just wanted to say I’m loving your blog.

  6. Nikkicrumpet says:

    Having suffered from asthma for 20 some odd years…I know the terror of not being able to breath….until you’ve felt that…it’s hard to even imagine. Trust me even if you can’t breath much…those inhalers are little gifts from God. There are times I wake up at night in a shaky sweaty panic and am so glad one of those babies is sitting on my nightstand. It’s a scary thing…I never leave home without at least one or two of them in my posession. I’m a FREAK about having them nearby. I’m sorry you’re going through this crap. Hope they get the reflux under control. Not breathing SUCKS…or doesn’t suck air at least lol

  7. gingela5 says:

    I think acid reflux has been the cause of many a people’s health problems. My husband thought he was literally dying but it was just acid reflux…

  8. I’m not allowed to look up conditions or symptoms on the Internets because then I’ll think I have them. Anyway, why do they call it an “Inhaler” when it isn’t the thing that’s doing the inhaling?

  9. Anna Lefler says:

    Good Lord! That really is scary.
    I know how you feel, too – because I risk choking to death (on laughter) every time I read your stinkin’ blog, lady!
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and keep the jaws of life nearby…
    ;^) A.

  10. 3boys1mommy says:

    Mm hmm your preaching to the choke on spit choir… last week I had an episode at the In n Out parking lot, my cheeseburger went flying across the mini van, cold soda in my lap. Horrifying.

  11. cassie says:

    That is so scary when it happens. No air, eyes watering, then by the grace of God you begin that “gulping for air cough”. I’m glad you were okay! Now, I have to admit, I laughed until I had tears in my eyes when you mentioned being relieved that nobody had heard you dying! I taught CPR for many years, and that’s a common thought in choking victoms. You worded it so comically though!

  12. Judy Haley says:

    Doctors that belittle really get my (ahem) goat. I have had several situations where I could not breath. It’s terrifying.

  13. muskrat says:

    that’s a bit nasty. glad all is okay now.

  14. Yikes.
    I have AR and it is no fun. Went through all the meds and only Prevacid helps me.
    That, and Super Digestive Enzymes from GNC, and I can live somewhat normally again.
    Scary stuff. Your former doctor really should’ve had you go for some tests, etc.

  15. dana says:

    I choked for years on a little spit. Sometimes a flake off of a cracker. Yep. Had reflux. My husband thought he was having a heart attack. Bad pain. Couldn’t swallow OR breathe. Yep. Reflux. It’s not happening AT THAT TIME, but the inflammation causes a stricture that attacks unexpectedly. And, FYI, if you ever actually choke ON something and you’re alone, stand up and THRUST your lower ribs against the top of a chair back. FORCEFULLY.

  16. ACK. I am hyperventilating, just reading this. I have a weird thing about breathing: I kind of need to do it. I’m terrified of choking. I had a similar experience with toothpaste. I made the radio static noises at my husband, all while white froth was pouring out of my mouth. He was unimpressed.
    I’m glad you’re OK and figured out the likely source. It’s also good to know about that coughing thing. I hope I never have to use it.

  17. Braja says:

    You’re alive. Fin.

  18. Di says:

    All that sugar will get ya. I choke sometimes too… can be embarrassing when out to dinner… drinking more water and keeping myself hydrated seems to help.
    The Blue Ridge Gal

  19. You poor thing! I have found that WebMD can and cannot be your friend. Sometimes it will get you so certain that you are dying of some rare genteics cancer that terminal. Thus causing anxitey for fear of death, thus causing chest pains from anxiety , thus cauing you to think you are having a heart attack, thus causing IBS….the list can go on and on….

  20. Elizabeth M. says:

    I read that entire story and the thing that stayed utmost in my mind and which I feel I need to know, is…Were you talking about a Tootsie Roll Pop lollipop or a Tootsie Roll Pop Drop, either of which are well worth eating but the former is much easier to find and a more affordable option for the quantity received. But, both are equally tasty and produce viable spit choking possibilities. 😉

  21. PS. Candy spit tends to choke me more often than acid reflux.

  22. Please accept my apologies for laughing thru the entire choking post. You make scary funny.
    But, I”m laughing too because I have this problem of choking on spit. It’s awful!
    And I also woke up DYING one night, I was dreaming that someone was pouring hot acid down my throat…apparently I had an isolated incident of major acid reflux. I jumped up gasping for air (again, pinhole size throat)…and running back and forth thru the house….when I finally had enough adrenaline to open my throat, I screamed to Hubby to call 911.
    He didn’t.
    But I took a bottle of Tums during the following few days.
    Bad memories……

  23. chat blanc says:

    perhaps the dr. should start consulting the interwebs before diagnosing patients so casually, he could learn a lot. like how and inhaler works! 😉

  24. Julia says:

    I think you may have been mistaken about the lollipop and were really eating goat cheese. Or at least you probably could induce the same choking reaction by the look on the the little girls face. Oh, and who can’t smile at the sight of an ugly llama?

  25. Ken Geraths says:

    FYI, If you ever want help fast, the fast way to get it is to call 911 hang up, when they call back don’t answer. You will have every one there asap! just so you know!

  26. Pooba says:

    wow, that’s the most interesting choking story I’ve heard today. And you seriously need a new doc!

  27. As a retired EMT and current CPR instructor, these posts crack me up. I am glad you figured out the issue and hope you get it taken care of ASAP.
    I could go into a lengthy presentation of what happens when you choke on spit, but the short of it is the little flap that protects your airway, tends to clamp down when it thinks you are drowning in spit.
    I know that was scary as hell, and I am glad you are OK.

  28. jamie says:

    That is terrifying. Methinks it might be time for a new doctor.
    Thanks a million for publicizing my goat video and linking to Travel Savvy Mom! You made my day.

  29. Margo says:

    LOL I choke on my own spit all the time, especially when I’m eating something really sugary, like laffy taffy. I’m used to it.

  30. Leslie says:

    I’m so glad you’re ok, what would we do without NGIP???

  31. Chris Bowers says:

    Sounds serious Nanny. Don’t take it lightly.

  32. Rhea says:

    Man, every time I look up a medical condition on the Internet, it turns out I must have cancer or a terminal disease. You got off light!
    I’m glad you figured out the problem and it’s fixable. SCARY, girlfriend, scary.

  33. Sandy says:

    I’m glad you figured it out. That sounds really scary! Love the video:)

  34. So the wisdom you gained from your near-death experience was No More Tootsies? I had one too. The wisdom I gained was to take it easy on the brownies.

  35. swirl girl says:

    The little girl in the goat movie almost choked on the cheese!
    Stay away from those tootsie pops! The devil’s candy, I tell ya!

  36. Blond Duck says:

    That happened to my husband once. It was really scary. We never got an inhaler though. The dr. just told us it was acid reflux and to work through it.

  37. Mrs Parks says:

    I am SO glad you survived because…
    A. I love your blog.
    B. I loved the TravelMom clip.
    C. I have a great picture posted today that involves goats and boats. Click on it to make it almost kind of not really lifesize.

  38. KiKi says:

    Damn, baby! Scary!
    Hey, Lidian — Sorry about the McDonalds horking from the library table. I’m a horribly obnoxious eater, but it’s part of my charm. 😉

  39. dr. wifey says:

    i stopped going to the real dr after i found webMD. i just diagnose myself and synthesize my own meds

  40. Tracy says:

    Yikes! How frightening for you. For a long time, I lived by myself and infant son while my husband was waiting for his visa. Choking to death was one of my biggest fears.
    I’m glad you got a new doctor and hope the situation is under control.

  41. Lidian says:

    That is very scary, I’m glad that at least you know what’s going on and why. The inhaler/inhaling thing is very Abbott and Costello. For some reason it reminds me of Who’s On First, only, of course, not funny at all when you are trying to breathe…
    I once choked on a clandestine dried apricot I was eating sneakily at a library computer terminal (because you can’t leave those things, that is MY place! and you also cannot eat up there, although I hear people scarfing down McDonald’s at the tables and the librarians seem not to hear this)
    It was extremely embarrassing and everyone heard the most awful sounds coming from me. I didn’t go back to that part of the library for some time.