Thursday, December 10, 2015



Monday afternoon I was at my new apt. in Pasadena minding my own business, doing four or five things at once, and trying to prepare for my trip to Kansas City the next day.

Whilst arguing with my car insurance lady Isabel over the increase in my premium, I thought to saute up a boneless pork cutlet from Trader Joe's, douse it with mango chutney, and proceed to wolf it down for some much-needed sustenance.

Suddenly, in the midst of, "You're trying to tell me I'm going to pay forty dollars more A MONTH!?" I realized something extremely untoward was happening: namely that a giant hunk of unchewed meat had wedged in my throat and that I could neither swallow nor kind of breathe.

"I'M CHOKING," I announced mid-sentence to Isabel. "I'M CHOKING!!!"

Isabel said, "Oh my God, I'll call 911" and I lurched out to my balcony where I tried to get down a swallow of tea, choked some more and started keening as best I could (my airway was blocked) in the loudest voice I have perhaps ever employed in my all my 63 years, HELP ME!!! HELP ME!!!

My new downstairs neighbor Laura, who was setting out on some errands, jumped out of her car and came to my rescue as did a next-door neighbor, Jesse, and boy am I going to bake them both some cookies when I return to L.A.

I retched and choked and made the most ungodly huffing/spitting/grunting noises while Laura called 911 and the paramedics came--a first in my tenure on earth--and insisted upon ferrying me to the hospital.

"Can't you just--HARRRCCHHH--do the Heimlich?" I rasped, mindful of the fact that if I wasn't going to die, I had a long list of tasks to complete before bedtime.

But they wouldn't, or couldn't, or doing the Heimlich isn't protocol, so this team of competent, consoling, handsome young men transported me to Huntington Memorial where the ER doctor's assistant administered a couple of teeny sprays of nitroglycerine, which fyi dilates the esophagus and after my 45 minutes or so of extreme discomfort the offending wad of food dropped down, liberating my trachea, and let me tell you, the ability to swallow freely is a wondrous delightful thing for which we should all give daily if not hourly thanks.

I hightailed it out of there ASAP and had a beautiful couple-of-mile walk home. Isabel called on the way to make sure I was okay and how nice is that from your insurance agent?

Back at my apartment, it was weird seeing the spilled tea all over the balcony and half a cold pork cutlet still sitting on the counter and everything quiet and how quickly things can take a turn in this vale of tears and how differently the afternoon could have turned out. [Here's a youtube on how to save yourself if choking alone at home].

And of course it was a wake-up call; to slow down, to quit trying to do too many things at once and too fast, to chew my food.

A little over 24 hours later, I was sitting at Jack Stack's in Kansas City partaking of a gigantic feast of stellar barbecue, courtesy of the fine fine folks of St. Peter's Parish. I ate slowly and carefully and tried not to talk with my mouth full which is not my forte. Cheesy corn, baked beans, fried onion rings, fried mushrooms, cole slaw, broiled shrimp, salmon salad, brisket, ribs, turkey, ham, pickles, broccoli, frosted carrot cake, molten lava cake and coffee.

I refrained (also not my forte) from regaling the guests with my "event" from the day before and the only awkward moment came when, among these 15 or so civic-proud Kansas Cityans who I couldn't help noticing seemed bizarrely focused on one particular subject, I thought to ask--"So who are the Royals?"

I might as well have asked, "What is the name of that big round yellow thing that comes up every morning?" but they forgave me and we went on to the fascinating subject of the long-standing enmity (also news to me) between the states of Missouri and Kansas.

KC has a prosperous, welcoming feel and the spacious, beautifully proportioned mid-West homes, many built by the lumber barons of yore, are decked out to the max with Christmas lights. I'm staying near the Plaza and could happily walk around for hours.

Everyone has been incredibly gracious and kind.

And I am grateful.



  1. Good Lord, Heather. Please learn to SLOW DOWN!!!

    1. ha thanks Bill! I still haven't unpacked my Christmas stuff which includes the Advent calendars so running a bit behind this year what with the move. All is well and all will be well...Blessed Advent to you, my friend.

  2. You eat a spread like that at Jack Stack's and you're still so svelte? It's not fair!

    1. metabolism of a hummingbird is my secret Fr. P!

  3. When I first moved to my apartment on Fair Oaks eight years ago I found the sirens of ambulances heading toward Huntington Hospital annoying. There are some Friday nights with six, seven or eight ambulances going by. There can be ten to twelve on a Saturday. One day my eyes were opened and I realized what a blessing I had been given to be able to pray for every person in need as they passed by my home. Now when I hear an ambulance, I stop what I am doing, kneel at the window and pray for the person on their way to the hospital. I pray until I cannot hear the siren anymore. It is beautiful to think of a chain of praying people all along the route of each person's journey. Know that you were prayed for, along with the EMTs and ER doctors and nurses, on Monday afternoon.

    1. That is lovely, thank you. One of the things that most struck me was the help along the way from two new neighbors who barely knew me to the EMTs to the hospital personnel to the insurance agent who called me back to my friend Julia who also called as I was walking home and with whom I was able to "process." Praying for the injured and sick instead of being annoyed at the ambulances, police cars, fire engines and sirens is a capital idea and just right. What also helps, I've found, is realizing: Someday they'll be coming for me. This time they were! Thank you so much for your support and prayers, Pas neighbor!


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