A crash course in life appreciation

Apr 05, 2010

If any of you were fortunate enough to attend the First Baptist Church of Waldoboro Men's Basketball League banquet a few weeks ago, you might have noticed some interesting things.

A few highlights: there was more than one dessert and both were delicious; there was also plenty of food to go around; and, off in the corner, there was a young man choking on a piece of prime rib.

That was me.

The best I can figure is that I got a little over zealous about my meal. I remember wanting to make a comment and I swallowed too soon. That was a bad choice.

A piece of meat got stuck in my throat and I was unable to breathe. I tried for a bit to fix the problem myself — I drank more water, tried to swallow, those kinds of things. It was a no-go.

Fortunately, VillageSoup Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell was there with me and noticed my dilemma. I signaled for his help and he stood me up and attempted to give me the Heimlich.

At this point, I was starting to feel dizzy and a little lightheaded, which was not what I was hoping for.

Unfortunately for my health, Mark's virtues lie more in a good heart than good first aid skills and after a few tries he was unable to clear my airway. He did the smart thing and stepped back, loudly asking for help.

Soon I felt a large set of hands fix themselves against my chest and, with a couple of pumps, clear a passage for me to breath. As it turns out, Woody Moore, Rockland District High's varsity football coach, had saved me.

I was a few things at that point, perhaps most of all shook up. I had not only almost just died, but almost just died making a scene in a room full of 200 people, which was more than mildly embarrassing.

I stepped out for a bit to clear my head and calm my nerves; then I went back.

The first thing I did was to profusely thank Woody, which of course I had already done and continued to do so throughout the night.

It was a funny experience. I don't really know how close I was to actual mortal danger but I know I was closer than I wanted to be.

We hear those things about life flashing before our eyes at times like that but it didn't happen for me. I was just too caught up in the moment to think about anything but how to breath. I was surprised and everything seemed to happen faster than I could process.

The whole mortality thing didn't really hit me until after the event. At the dinner I was still fairly shell-shocked and just tried to get through without further incident. However, there was a feeling of immense joy creeping up on me.

It didn't hit me until I got outside.

I got very lucky that night, about as lucky as a guy can get. I had just avoided the big sleep, which, to me, was no small matter.

I also came out of that dinner without a scratch. Woody didn't even fracture a rib, something that often happens when performing the Heimlich Maneuver and something that a man with his strength could have easily done.

The rest of the evening I was ecstatic.

The first thing I did when I got back into my car to go home was to call the important people in my life.

I called my Mom and Dad to tell them about the evening but more importantly that I love them even if I don't say it enough. I told my best friends too.

It was a funny thing for this to happen to a guy like me. I don't live life on the edge or recklessly but I do enjoy a bit of vibrancy.

I ride a motorcycle, too often taking advantage of Maine's helmet laws. I probably drive too fast, I drink, I whitewater paddle, I hike, I get lost in the woods and I take risks.

But I was almost done in by a piece of meat.

I haven't figured out what that means in the greater scheme of things but I am in the process of finding out.

The night of the dinner, Woody invited me to return to the First Baptist Church on Sunday, which I did. I wanted to give some thanks where thanks is due and going back to the same place to do it was kind of poetic in a way.

Even though going to church did not answer all my questions or resolve my thoughts, it felt good to spend some time on something larger than myself. That, in itself, might be one lesson to learn although I know I'll have my hands full figuring just that out.

For the time being, though, the entire experience has told me to keep enjoying life but to do it with new responsibly and with greater gratitude. At the least, I want to continue to try and suck the marrow out of life … but be thankful I am able to do so without choking.

Also, if you were wondering: after my ordeal, I did sit back down and finished my meal. I was not going to let a piece of beef get the best of me.

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