Today starts off for me at 03:30, when I’m woken up to an awful feeling in my stomach. I roll over and try to get the little bit of sleep I would have left before I normally wake up. A couple of minutes go by and the feeling gets worse, so reluctantly I get out of bed and head to the bathroom. I’m have some diarrhea and a mostly a lot of gas. I’m feeling a bit down because I’ve gone a long time, for Ghana, now that I’ve been healthy and I’ve even been getting fat comments lately. Well, so much for keeping that weight on. After I’m done I just stay awake and prepare for my Krobo program and the rest of the day today.
Bush’s mom has been preparing us food every morning for a while now. She already makes a huge batch to sell at the SHS, so she takes some and gives it to Bush and I to eat. This morning we get our usual bag of rice, stew, salad, and meat. When we get to the office I tell Bush that my stomach might not be able to take too much food today. Luckily one of our friends comes in and he accepts the offer to join us. A woman comes in to do some business with Bush, so he’s mostly busy talking with her and taking the occasional bite of food. Feeling hungrier than I expected, the other young man and I scarf down most of the food. We get to the bottom of the bowl and I tell them to chew the meat for me. Bush is used to me saying this, but the young man doesn’t understand and asks why I don’t want the protein. I insist for him just to eat it and don’t explain much. Bush understands a little more that I just am not interested in the meat that she gives us. Most of the time it’s the skin of the animal, which by the way still has some short hair on one side. No way am I eating that. The rest of it doesn’t look much better, even when it’s not covered in fat. I’ll stick with the fish thank you.
Anyway, the young man doesn’t argue much and takes one of the pieces to himself. Bush takes the other piece and I’m sitting there listening to the Twi conversation between Bush and the woman and paying attention to the little boy who is with the young man. I look over at Bush and he’s not talking, but I don’t think anything of it. He is looking for his handkerchief and then takes it and puts it to his mouth. Then he leans over and looks like he’s laughing really hard or crying into the cloth. I can’t quite tell, so I just watch him to see what he’s doing. Then he looks at me and his eyes are full of tears and bloodshot. The woman asks him something about his head and he nods and points straight down on his head from the top of his skull. I’m thinking to myself that it’s really strange that he all of a sudden just got such a bad headache that he is tearing. Then the woman asks him something else and I hear the word meat. The gears in my brain are now turning much faster and I’m leaning toward him to find out what’s happening. I’m asking him questions to try to get some kind of clear response I can help. Then he opens his mouth and points toward his throat. When he pulls his finger out of his mouth a long stringy piece of saliva comes out and he looks like he’s going to pass out.
Suddenly, I realize that he’s choking on the piece of meat he’s been eating. I quickly stand up out of my chair at the same time as the young man and the woman. I look at the young man expecting him to jump in and do the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, he turns toward the door and runs away. I’m baffled because he was about three inches taller than me and clearly holding about 20 pounds more muscle. Now I realize that he must be going to get help, so I turn to Bush and try to solve the problem myself. I get a sense of panic because I’ve only heard about this situation in stories and only know about practicing the maneuver on a doll. My mind flashes to running next door to my compound to get Fadila, my nurse roommate, but my instincts to help my friend override the fear as I realize that I’m his only chance of help here. From my more extensive first aid class I know how short of a time needs to go by before someone passes out or worse, gets long term damage from not breathing. I stand him up out of his chair and can’t quite get behind him properly. I put my arms around his torso and start to pull. I realize that I don’t have a good angle, so I kick his chair out of the way with my left foot and take a position behind him getting ready like I’m about to do a squat or lift a huge weight. I pull on his torso a few times and feel like I should have been practicing this more. I can’t tell if I’m doing it right because no food is flying out of his mouth. I spin him around to see if he’s breathing and he’s not making any noise, but he’s still conscious. I got a glimpse of his face again and I could see his eyes are much worse and I can feel him trying to make a noise or breath. At the sight of my friend in such trouble, all of my fear and questioning goes away. I know exactly what I need to do here and I’ll do anything it takes to help him breathe again.
Right then, my adrenaline starts to coarse through my veins. Now that I have a better position I fully lift him up off of his feet with every pull. With out even thinking my hand is in the position I was always taught at school with my fist in my other hand and I’m pulling, inward and upward, just below his ribs. Now he’s not even touching the ground and I’m continuing to pull in on his stomach. I literally feel like I’m lifting a small child. My adrenaline is pumping so much now that I feel like if I wanted to I could split him in half. I have to say I’ve never felt this much adrenaline before and it’s really scary. I’ve been in some life threatening situations before in my life, but this one is affecting my adrenaline response much more. The other situations were more split second decisions that were over with a couple of eye blinks, but knowing that my friends life could be in my hands I’m reacting much differently. I’m partially worried that I will hurt him, but much more worried that he will go unconscious or something worse. I pull a few more times and then peak around to see if he can breath or if he’s conscious. I can now hear him making little gasps of air, so I immediately feel a sense of relief, but spin him around to continue. After a few more times pulling on his stomach I can hear more breathing. I set him down on the ground and wait for a second as he coughs up the entire piece of meat, bone and all, that he was eating.
Right then, the young man runs back in, not with help, but with a sachet of water. Really!? That’s the best you could do? What was he planning on doing with the water to help Bush stop choking? I’m surprised he didn’t come in with another piece of meat. Bush, without even sitting down takes the meat off of the ground and hobbles over to the trashcan to throw it away. I can tell that he’s extremely embarrassed and a bit in shock. I sit back down in my chair, but I’m still totally in the midst of my body’s reaction. I don’t even know what to say at this point so I just tell Bush that he really scared me. I’m sure there’s something more poetic I could have thought of, but at this point what to say is the last thing on my mind. I sit down for a few minutes and the woman in the chair tells me that God will bless me, in Twi, and I don’t really respond to her but I give her a smile. After a few more minutes Bush and I don’t say anything to each other as he tries to get his barrings and continue with his client. I’m feeling a bit awkward in the situation and my adrenaline is still at peak level, so I tell them that I’m going to my going to learn my Ghanaian grandpa and grandma.
I step out of his shop and try to let the cool air breeze bring me back to reality. I’m still feeling like I need to go and work off this adrenaline, but I need to go and meet with my Ghanaian grandparents because I have ice cream in my freezer that they are going to sell. I get over there and only Nana Kofi, the grandpa, is there. I greet him and sit down and try to resist screaming. I think I’m still in a bit of shock at what just happened and I also just need to get rid of the adrenaline. After a few seconds of sitting he falls asleep. We literally couldn’t be further apart in our energy levels. He can’t stay awake and I feel like I could fight a grizzly bear. I sit down and lightly close my eyes and just try to mentally slow my heart rate and calm my body down. The scene keeps flashing through my head and I keep thinking what I could have done better, but most of all I’m thinking about what would have happened if I decided my stomach was too bad in the morning and I hadn’t gone to his office. I don’t think I can say that I saved his life, but I can’t help wonder what that young man would have done with the water in my absence. I try to escape my head, so I just concentrate on my body. I can’t keep my eyes closed and my entire body is shaking as if I am shivering from being cold, but cold is the last thing I’m feeling right now. After about 20 minutes some people walk by and greet me and I start to calm down. Finally Nana Mary comes out and I go back to my place to get the ice cream. After talking with them a bit and sending Mary on her way to sell at the school, I head back to my room.
Once back in my room I immediately start to write this adventure down in my computer. My adrenaline is mostly gone now, but I’m not feeling back to normal, perfect time to really try and capture exactly what happened. After some time of writing Bush calls me. He tells me that I forgot my bowl at his office. Once I get to his office I greet him in our usual silly voices, but I can tell he’s still a bit spooked too. He’s not behind his desk, but instead sitting in the chair by his front door. We recount the situation and he tells me that once he knew he couldn’t breath that his mind started to go crazy. I think that’s what he was trying to communicate by pointing to the top of his head. Then he said that he tried to gag himself to throw up and that must have been when he put his finger in his mouth and the stringy saliva came back out. I walked him through my perception of the event and then commented on the young man bringing water. He said that’s common for people to do, but this time it wouldn’t have worked because there was absolutely nothing passing by the food. Apparently it works to use water when the throat is only partially clogged. He then got serious and told me that if I weren’t there he would have died. Not sure what to say here, I just smile and we both thank God that he’s still here with us. Bush then goes on through some what if scenarios about how people would react if he had died. I never really experienced something like this, especially it happening to such a close friend and knowing that I played such a big role. Looking at bush I feel tears start to well up, but I fight them off and keep my cool. After some more chatting and us thanking our lucky stars, I leave to go to Krobo. Wow, that was quite an interesting start to my week.
From there I go to my program and don’t feel so good, so I meet the tutors and then leave early. Once home I take a nap and then wake up to the sound of Fad and her mother fetching water. I get out of bed and feel much better, even enough to fetch water. I go about three times and it isn’t until about the last time that I start to feel like I should stop. Charles joins us with fetching the water and we finish afterward with us all outside chatting. For those of you who are worried about me being sick, don’t be. By the end of the night, it’s 7 now, I’m feeling much better and I think I’ll be 100% by tomorrow. Probably just some bug passing through my system. Anyway, let’s hope that tomorrow is a little less exciting.