The Fish Bone

Or, one of the most embarrassing nights ever


By Cynthia Adams

As a coastal weekend drew to an end, we stopped at Sandy’s, a fishmonger in Southport. With cruelly blue skies that made us reluctant to head westward, we decided that fish, fresh from that day’s catch, would extend our getaway. 

Eating outside as dusk fell, the tender, flaky fish pushed thoughts of Monday morning into the great beyond.

Suddenly, I felt a bone graze my throat.

I reached for my wine glass. The sensation — scratchy — was still there. Then I reached for bread to push the bone down. 

It was uncomfortable. But not unbearably so.

My husband suggested we go get my throat looked at, but I was unwilling. There were things to do for the workweek ahead. I busied myself, coughing, gargling and clearing my throat whenever he left the room. The clock ticked.

I put on my pj’s and climbed into bed. As soon as I was prone, I knew. This was not merely a scratch. When I got up to dress for the emergency room, my husband was unamused.

“Why couldn’t we have gone at 6:30 and not 10 at night?” he groused.

I was sheepish when checking into the ER at Moses Cone for the first time in my life. A fish bone lodged in my throat felt like an inadequate emergency.

At this point, my husband stubbornly believed there was no way a bone was in there. I glared at him as he instructed the staff to put dire emergencies ahead of us, and then we sat silently for what felt like hours on end as the waiting room grew steadily fuller.

When I suggested we leave and try our luck at Wesley Long instead, my husband grew more irritated but eventually agreed. Once there, we found an even busier ER.

When my name was finally called, they beckoned me to a curtained off bay. I noted my name scrawled on a white board: “Adams. FB.”  Wincing at that, I cleared my throat to test if perhaps the bone had moved. It was too late to bolt and go home.

Eavesdropping on the patients adjacent to me, I soon realized one of my neighbors was having heart attack symptoms. The other had attempted suicide.

These people, my husband’s expression said, have real emergencies.

When the young physician pulled back the curtain, I immediately apologized for being there. He pointed out that “95 percent” of people who think they have a fish bone lodged in their throat actually only have a scratch from swallowing it.

I felt about as ridiculous as I had ever felt in my adult life.

Then he examined my throat. “Hmmm,” he said. “I’ll be darned.”

My heart leapt hopefully. “There is a bone?” I asked, relieved for the first time in four hours.

“Sure is.” He left to get forceps. My husband looked stunned.

The doctor returned wearing a miner’s light and carrying what looked like long, skinny barbecue tongs.

“What if you can’t reach it?” my husband asked unhelpfully.

“We will have to prep her for surgery,” he replied.

“Surgery?” I squeaked, sobering.

He explained that the bone had to be extracted or else my throat could become infected and sepsis could set in. Any pleasure I had from being in the right disappeared.

But the doctor managed to extract it, and the relief was immediate, much like having a splinter release.

“Thank you!” I shouted, as he showed us the bone.

“It’s good sized,” he marveled. “Want to keep it?” 

I shook my head. 

Any questions, he asked.

I had one. “Why did you have to write Fish Bone?” I asked, pointing to the scrawled letters on the white board. “That was so embarrassing.”

The doctor was confused but turned to look.

“F-B?” He asked with a grin.

“Foreign Body.”

My husband began laughing and I feebly joined in. Back home, mere hours before our alarm would blare, I stretched out and felt — nothing.

“Do. Not. Tell. Anyone.” I muttered. But the bed shook as he lay there.

And, I will admit it, I laughed, too — in spite of my fool self.  OH

Contributing editor Cynthia Adams claims the fish was so delicious that her FB experience was almost worth it. Her husband still has a bone to pick over the experience.

Recommended Posts