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What If There Was No Tomorrow

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On Friday, I almost died. I failed at two very basic things that we all have great experience in: eating and breathing. I choked on a some pizza crust. I was around a lot of people at the day job I've been contracting for. If I had been working from home, you wouldn't be reading this. A couple of co-workers performed the Heimlich, to no success, but one called 911. The paramedics were on the scene in a minute - quite literally. I'd give you more details, but I was too busy unconscious, not breathing for over a minute. The paramedics were awesome, well-prepared with the right knowledge and equipment (or so I heard, I didn't get to see the equipment other than the oxygen when I came through).

Pizza crust can kill you. I've never felt more mortal.

The paramedics rushed me to the hospital where I underwent a couple of hours of observation and a chest x-ray (to see if the failed Heimlich attempts caused any damage). I was cleared to drive home - except for one thing... I no longer had a shirt since it had to be cut open. While some found that equal parts humorous and horrific, I found it symbolic of my new-found freedom.

Having cheated death, I was going to go crazy. I was going to go skydiving with a shark strapped to my chest. I was going to bathe with 12 plugged in toasters. I was going to go on an exclusive pizza crust diet.

A drive home without a shirt meant that I could now live a new life unencumbered by anything... except for a seat belt.

The seat belt was important. It reminded me that I can't neglect responsibilities. Oddly, those responsibilities are not financial in nature. My wife and puppy would be financially secure without me. They were emotional in nature. My wife was a wreck when she heard (she had been on travel in LA at the time, but was scheduled to be on a plane home in a few hours anyway). Co-workers told me they couldn't sleep after the experience. I hope to look into some of the other responsibilities over the next week.

There's number of lessons to be learned here. Over the next week, I'll go through some of them - and relate them to personal finance. Sorry if it sounds morbid to spend a week on it, but consider it a celebration of life. I'll leave you with one lesson that sticks out:

Never Eat Alone - It might not be how the author intended, but it's still relevant.

Posted on July 27, 2009.

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33 Responses to “What If There Was No Tomorrow”

  1. kosmo says:

    You should sue the restaurant for serving dangerous food. You should also sue the people who messed up your ribs during the failed Heimlichs. Hey, if it was quasi work-related, why not filed a worker’s comp claim, too. Someone owes you a shirt, too!

    Hey, it’s the American way to get rich quick :)

    On a serious note – glad that everything worked out OK. Hopefully this is your only brush with an early death. And I’m not just saying that because you provide the hosting for my blog :)

    Sliding onto a tangent – I read something a while back (maybe here, but I don’t think so) that the safest place to have a heart attack (or choke, probably) is Vegas. Not only do they have cameras everywhere (lessening the chance that you will go unnoticed), but they have on-site defibrillators and the staff is trained for emergencies. I’m thinking the heart attack surviving rate is maybe twice the national average (I’m pulling this estimate from a vague memory)? A substantial boost from the average, in any case.

  2. Dang! Glad to hear you are still with us! :)

    -Erica

  3. Moneymonk says:

    Wow ! Glad you still here to write about it.

  4. PT Money says:

    Whoa. I can’t imagine. So glad to hear you made it through. One whole minute without breathing. That’s crazy. Sounds like you were lucky to have help so close. Glad you’re ok. Can’t wait to hear more about it.

  5. Victor says:

    Glad you’re OK!

    So…

    Any bright lights? Insights into the great beyond? Any predictions for the markets in 2010?

    Have you been able to know things about people by touching objects that belonged to them, like a young Bible salesman named Greg Stillson…

    Ok, never mind.

    Again, good to hear you survived!

  6. Lulu says:

    Glad that you finally turned out okay and on the bright side you get a series of posts out of it.

    Along the lines of ‘never eat alone’ I would recommend ‘always have a phone near’. When I collapsed a couple of years ago, my habit of having my cellphone perpetually stuck to me paid off and I was able to get help before I bled out.

    Can’t wait to read the rest of the details (but not in a morbid way….just to see how you relate it to money.)

  7. Michele says:

    Wow, a truly “God is tryin’ to tell you something” moment (and I am not religious). Things do happen for a reason, and I am glad to hear you are ok. Its really scary to think of something so simple killing you but it happens all the time.

    I had one of those life changing experiences once as well. I drove underneath a semi trailer, bounced off the rear tire, spun around and didnt hit another single object at the height of rush hour, and walked away with only a scratch on my knee. Almost dying is a wake up call worth listening to.

  8. Jim says:

    Glad to hear you are ok.

  9. Incredible! Quite the life-changing experience, I’m sure. Also very glad that you pulled through.

  10. Wow. My son choked on a “lemonhead” once, and caused me to have a different sort of reflection.

    Congrats on being at the right place ( near help ) and the wrong place ( near the deadly pizza crust ) at the same time :)

  11. Thanks for sharing this experience which though scary sounds like it’s given you new perspective.

    Thank God you’re alright.

  12. Joseph Sangl says:

    Crazy stuff! Glad to hear that there is no long term damage and that you are 100% OK!

  13. fern says:

    I’m so glad you’re ok. Living alone and often eating alone, that is kind of a sobering story. I will remember to chew more carefully.

  14. I was so horrified when I heard of this story first hand and am truly grateful he is around so we can continue beating him in Settlers of Catan. Ok, silliness aside, I thank God for Lazy. He’s an awesome guy this world needs many more of.

  15. Emily says:

    Yikes! So glad you’re OK. I had a bad choking experience quite a few years ago. It was on chicken parmesan and I was in high school, at with my step-dad and brother. All of the sudden I was choking and couldn’t breathe or talk — it was just stuck in my throat. HORRIBLE feeling. They noticed I was struggling and my step-dad did the Heimlich but it didn’t work. So he threw me on the ground on all fours and slammed his hand on the center of my back and out came the food. My mom and sister walked in the door just minutes later and couldn’t believe it when we told them! I was SO thankful people were with me when that happened….

    Now I am always careful about taking small bites, though every once in a while I get a scare and I worry I am starting to choke when I’m not since it left such a bad memory. I live alone too, which doesn’t help my anxiety about it. But I hope nothing like that will ever happen again! And yes, always keeping a cell phone nearby is smart. Though if you can’t talk, I wonder if they can still find your location and send someone?

  16. Maarten says:

    Thanks to your co-workers (who knew what to do AND did it!) and the para-medics. I am glad you survived this ill-served lunch. Well, pizza is supposed to be made of a wafer thin (see-tru thin that is) dough, not the thick oil-soaked toast they serve in most restaurants aroud the World. (Slight chance this would have happened in Italy). “Never eat alone” is a really nice and social way to live. I just like to ad: Never sleep alone (..and share your dreams).

  17. Deuce Carter says:

    “Pizza crust can kill you. I’ve never felt more mortal.”

    Greatest post ever.

  18. tall girl says:

    I’m glad you are better now. wow…

  19. Man, that’s scary. I’m so glad there were people around you and you were able to quickly get help.

  20. tammy says:

    Wow I am so glad you are ok. Life certainly is unpredictable and can end in the blink of an eye (or the bite of a pizza crust)! FD alerted me to you. Thanks for the reminder to savor life.

  21. Paula says:

    Glad things turned out okay. When we were kids, my younger sister once choked on hard candy. We were alone in the house and she panicked. I chased her down, turned her upside down and (accidentally) banged her head on the floor. I was planning to shake her (please keep in mind that we were pretty young). I’m not sure WHY I thought that was a good idea, but it did the job. Out popped the candy, and she’s still here today giving me grief. :) I hope you’ll be around to give us good advice for a long time to come.

  22. Linette says:

    I am very happy you are still around and didn’t die! What a crazy experience!

    I have been doing some part time stuff dealing with genealogy and lots and lots of death. I was first sad and scared and then I learned life is too short and I wanted to live. I feel full of life and want to do everything I can to enjoy it.

    I hope your experience with death comes out being a positive one.

  23. christy says:

    For those that eat alone there are suggestions for doing the Heimlich on yourself. Rather than describe them here I would suggest finding a website or finding out from a CPR instructor what to do. Better yet-learn CPR and save a life!

    Glad your incident ended well.

  24. Lazy Man says:

    I am familiar with how to do the Heimlich on myself, but considering there were others around, and big tall office chairs are less than ideal to do it, I figured I’d stand a better chance by not refusing aid to help myself.

  25. Glad you are ok. Are you know going to make a dramatic change and become the “Fresh outlook on life – forget finances and simply enjoy life” Man? Might be too long a title I guess.

    Choking is not a fun experience. I choked on a piece of steak once. Time seems to slow down and it can be hard to get someone’s attention at a crowded restaurant when you can’t speak. Luckily I got mine out myself before passing out. But it does give you a greater appreciation for how close we are to the end.

    Looking forward to your future posts :)

  26. Roger says:

    Wow, that’s certainly a distressing experience. I’m glad you’re alright, and though it might be a bit morbid, I look forward to reading what you have to say about the lessons to be learned. Stay healthy, and be sure to chew carefully.

  27. I am glad to hear you are ok. I am almost choked on rice when I was a kid.

    Slow down when eating your food.

  28. Flexo says:

    I’m glad to see you survived the ordeal.

  29. Monevator says:

    Awesome that your first response here is to have little joke about it here as well as record your obvious distress.

    Be careful with the ‘I’m on extra time’ mentality, in my humble opinion. A family member of mine took years to get stable again after a life-threatening bike accident.

    Ultimately, you’re just as important to the people in your life and you’ve still got as much to do and to contribute as before – nobody is keeping count!

    Just a thought, hope not too out of place to mention.

  30. Barry says:

    It’s great that you are still around to give us a great laugh. I’ve been in too many discussion groups where people just suddenly vanish and are never heard from again. You have to assume after a few years of ‘radio silence’ that there’s a good chance that they have passed away.

    I once had an extreme food allergy at work (not anaphylactic though). I stumbled to the washroom for some privacy and just sat down on a toilet while wavering in and out of consciousness. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t want the ignominy of being found dead sitting on a toilet ;^) so I managed to drag myself out and make it down to my car. The car was sitting in the sun on a hot summer day and I just ‘cooked’ that poison out of my system. A bit idiotic, but I was only in my early 20’s so I thought I was going to live forever anyways.

    So glad to hear that you are still with us! Take care.

  31. Laura says:

    I’m glad things turned out okay. I’m glad the people around you were able to get help quickly. I’m also happy you got professional help relatively quick.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Incredible! Quite the life-changing experience, I’m sure. Also very glad that you pulled through.

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