It’s amazing how your day can change in lickety split. Last Sunday got off to an awesome start. After a hectic week, I was looking forward to our family’s first visit to the Dogwood Festival. The weather was great, not too hot, not too cold. When we left, we stopped by Sam’s Club to pick up a few things to throw on the grill. With two kids in tow, we decided my husband would go inside and I would stay in the car with the children. As I am on the phone with him, I hear Morgan in the backseat counting money from her cup holder. No matter the size of the coin, she counts it as one.
“One, two, three…” I hear her counting sing song like until she reaches “nine.” All of a sudden I hear her kicking and panting and yelling. I jump in the backseat and ask her what’s wrong. She is holding her throat with both hands and says she can’t breath. “Morgan,” did you swallow something?” “Yes she yells; money, I can’t breathe.” She’s panicking and I am trying not to. I ask her what color was it and she tells me it was brown. I open her mouth and put two fingers to the back of her throat. I am hoping I can see it. I can’t. I am hoping I can cause a gag reflects and it will come out. It doesn’t. “Morgan, if you can yell, you can breathe. Please calm down, breathe out your nose and tell me where it is.” “It’s stuck, right here,” she says panting slow but calmer.
She points to the center soft spot at the bottom of your neck, right before your collarbone. I feel for it, but I can’t feel it. I look down and realize the phone was still connected to my husband and I tell him he has to come and we have to go the emergency room. His initial response was one of little concern. “What did she swallow,” he asked. “A penny I respond, we have to go now, leave the basket and lets go.” I sense irritation in his voice, but he comes out and when he gets to the truck he understands the emergency and heads to the hospital.
When we arrive, I rush her in and explain she swallowed a penny and is having trouble breathing. The doctor on call is Dr. Smiley and he enters without hesitation. When he comes in we explain the situation he seems somewhat nonchalant and says “sometimes children feel like it’s still stuck, but they have passed it to their belly, so the x-ray will determine our next step.”
Now, I have to tell you all, that yes, I too have swallowed a penny and yes, I know most children will pass it to their stomach and the parents have the unfortunate job of searching for it in their stool for the next few days. On the surface, I am familiar and understand that kids live through this type of thing. In fact, my husband too has swallowed a coin and our parents yelled, gave us some castor oil and played the waiting game. But this was different, and I knew it and I know Morgan. I knew if she said it was stuck….then it was stuck. And I knew, I had tried all the basics and I couldn’t see it or make her throw it up or make her finish swallowing it.
In X-ray we need two technicians, one to help position her and one to take the picture. I explain to her it’s a photo op and we will see her skeleton and she seems cool with that. As soon as we hear the buzzing sound of the camera click, the technician yells “Is she still wearing a necklace?” And that’s my confirmation that a foreign object is definitely stuck in my baby’s throat. No, she was not wearing a necklace; it’s the penny. It was placed perfectly in the center of her throat, like a choker.
By this time, it’s been about an hour and she is calm, but starting to drool and puffs her cheeks in an attempt to get more air. She squeezes my hand every now and again when she gets nervous. She can speak, but is scared to and I can understand that. Upon review of her X-ray, Dr. Smiley calls the Gastrointestinal Doctor on call. Within an hour we are headed to an operating room for an endoscopy to hopefully retract a penny that is lodged in my four-year-old daughter’s esophagus. Really, I mean, I was just at the Dogwood Festival watching her on kiddie rides and now she was being prepped for surgery.
Inserting the IV was the worst part for her. For the most part, under the circumstances, I was extremely calm; until it was time for her to go to the operating room, without me. Now, that was a problem and the nurses on staff knew it. The saving grace was Dr. Josie. She was calm, beautiful and sincere and put me somewhat at ease about my absence. I was grateful for her demeanor, cause Lord knows I was thinking about setting it off when told I had to leave my baby.
An excruciating 20 minutes later, Dr. Josie hands me the most expensive penny I own and a color picture of the inside of my toddlers esophagus and stomach. She then explains just how stuck the penny was and that she had to push it down into her stomach and retract it from her belly. There are a few lacerations on her throat and in her stomach, but it’s the emotional scars her daddy and me went through that will never heal and they certainly cannot be bought with a penny.
When Morgan wakes up from surgery, she looks at me dimly and I kneel down to her bedside and say “Morgan, you can talk now.” She whispers softly “Is the penny gone?” And when I tell her it is, she smiles and loudly says “it’s gone, it’s gone, it’s really gone.” A few moments later she thanks Dr. Smiley and assures him that she has learned her lesson and that’s why parents say not to put money in your mouth. I am grateful for her lesson, but my oh my it sure did cost a lot more than a penny.