On Sunday night my partner and I were having dinner with his family to celebrate his sister’s birthday. My partners’ mum, is the most amazing cook and I had been looking forward to the meal all weekend.
She started the meal with handmade gnocchi that took me back to my 2015 trip to Italy. It was melt-in- your-mouth goodness – delicate and soft and oh so good! Next, we had red emperor with vegetables from her garden, fresh fennel, Hasselback potatoes, a delicious cauliflower dish and more.
In my excitement of having such a tasty meal in front of me, I clearly did not chew properly and swallowed a fish bone – a BIG fish bone.
You know that moment where you think “Oh shit. This feels bad”? I excused myself from the table and figured I’d do a DIY job of fish bone-removal in the bathroom. After trying numerous things such as dry retching and sticking my hand down my throat trying to grab it, I called my partner into the bathroom. He gave it a good shot too but after five minutes he decided that his auntie – who is a nurse – was the best person for the job. She was called into the bathroom.
At this point, three of the nine dinner guests were MIA and so my partner’s mum came looking for us. With all four of us giving it our all (torches, tweezers and lots of directions) we soon realised this fish bone was just not going to budge.
It was decided that a trip to the ER was the only resolution. Obviously I waited for the birthday cake and song to be sung before I left. I felt terrible about interrupting dinner and even worse about having to leave three quarters of it on my plate. I really was desperado to eat all that amazing food!!
We arrived at one of the biggest public hospitals in Perth just after 9pm on a wet and cold Sunday night. Now the thing about ER departments is that you really don’t want to be visiting them unless you are struggling to breathe or your heart is doing weird stuff. Unless you are “critical” you remain towards the end of the queue whilst people with more acute symptoms are seen first. When asked if my breathing was affected I was actually very tempted to exaggerate my symptoms to get seen to more quickly. Unfortunately my conscience was in full effect that night and I told them I could breathe – I was just in pain every time I swallowed.
After two and a half hours I was finally called through to a room and given a bed to wait (even longer) on. This room had 12 beds full of people in varying states of distress and all that separated each bed was a curtain. This meant I could hear everything that was going on around me.
The man in the bed next to me had suspected pancreatitis. He had had 20 hospital visits over the past ten months – his last one being only five days prior. He gets sudden onsets of horrific pain and becomes completely debilitated until it passes, and he said the pain can last anywhere from two hours to 20! He is 52 years old.
He still doesn’t actually know exactly what the problem is, but has tests booked for the end of July so he should find out then. Until July, he just has to hope for the best and keep his fingers crossed that the pain attacks hold off.
I was actually starting to appreciate my fish bone at this point!! This guys’ life is being completely dominated by his health (or lack there-of). Just listening to him give the doctors his history and what is going on for him now really reiterated to me just how important our health is.
This experience was juxtaposed to the previous 48 hours where my partner and I had been in Manijmup with a family friend called Viv. We had gone down there on Friday because there was a food festival called the Truffle Kerfuffle. This festival is a celebration of all things truffle which are grown in the area. We spent Friday and Saturday night with Viv and it was wonderful to learn about her life in more detail and experience the farm.
Viv is 70 years old and runs her hobby farm with boundless energy and focus. She grows her own vegetables, looks after her animals, keeps bee hives, makes most of her food from scratch, takes care of the property, and is currently developing two different products with local businesses.
Oh, and she is in the most abundant and radiant health! Her eyes are bright and her skin looks vibrant and youthful.
As I listened to peoples’ stories in the ER department – heart attacks, psychotic episodes, terrible flus and general sickness – I felt immense gratitude for my health. Generally speaking my health is very good but recently I haven’t been putting the energy into it to make it outstanding.
After spending time with Viv and then having the massive contrast of the ER department, I felt as though the universe was giving me the opportunity to make a choice to step up and take even better care of myself.
How healthy, vibrant and energetic do I want to be in five years? Ten years? Twenty years?
It’s definitely something to think about right NOW.
Over the weekend Viv and I had discussed how our health in our later years is really set up in our 40s. If, in your 20s and 30s, you went hard with alcohol, drugs, poor food choices and not much exercise, you are still able to turn it around in your 40s. If it hasn’t happened by then, my guess is that it probably won’t until you have your first serious health scare.
And maybe it STILL won’t happen after that.
Our health seems to be one of those things that we take for granted – that is until we start to lose it.
I was so appreciative of the doctors who got that damn fish bone out of my throat – they did an amazing job! But I was even more appreciative of the opportunity I was afforded in the ER department – a chance to flash forward and see what poor health really looks like.
I realised a brutal reality: if I don’t have my health, I have nothing.