The Day I Nearly Died

At the end of August, 2008 I went with Kat to Ukraine for the first time. It was a bit stressful because I’d be meeting her friends and family for the first time, and also because I’d be in a country where English wasn’t spoken very often. It was a great trip, but my strongest memory of the trip was a little event that happened on a train… I almost died.

We were taking a train from Kat’s hometown of Donetsk, in the East, to the Crimea area in the South. We left in the early evening and wouldn’t arrive until early the next morning, so that meant sleeping on the train. A private sleeper was too much money, so we opted for a shared sleeper – 4 beds in one cabin.

After an hour I started to get hungry, as we hadn’t had a chance to eat before getting on the train. Kat’s mom had packed us some chicken and bread, so I decided to make myself a nice chicken sandwich. Ukrainian bread is absolutely delicious; it’s just ever so slightly sweet, and freshly baked bread can be found nearly everywhere on the streets. I finished making my sandwich, and started eating it, as I was extremely hungry at that point. A few bites in, and I realized I had a problem. The nice moist, fresh Ukrainian bread had gotten lodged in my throat. Not a huge problem, as I could just wash it down with a bit of water and clear it out of my throat.

The problem, it turns out, was bigger than I thought. When I attempted to drink a bit of water to help the food down, it actually plugged my windpipe completely. I couldn’t breathe.

If you’ve ever seen a movie where someone chokes they usually get up, make a bunch of noise and someone rushes to their help. The reality is that you can’t make ANY sound at all because there’s no air that can come out of your mouth. Kat was busy talking to an old lady sitting across from us, so I grabbed her arm to get her attention, make the international “I’m choking” sign (hands around my throat), and turned around so she could give me the Heimlich Maneuver.

*WHACK*

Apparently the Heimlich Maneuver didn’t make it’s way to Ukraine. Instead they employ the “smack the back” method of dislodging food that’s stuck in someone’s throat. It didn’t work, and I quickly realized I’d have to teach Kat the procedure. The old lady that Kat had been chatting to went back to reading her book.

I turned to face her, put my hands together and made the motion that you make while giving the Heimlich Maneuver, then I turned around so she could give it to me, and placed her hands in the proper position.

*Hug*

I love to get hugs in any normal situation, but in this case the food couldn’t be hugged out of me. I looked around the small cabin to see if there was something I could use to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on myself, but the only thing I saw was a hook on the wall, and that wouldn’t work at all. I quickly turned around and made the same motion as before, only more aggressively, so she knew she had to do it harder, then I turned around.

*UGH*

This time it wasn’t a hug; she did it properly, but the food was still stuck. My mind began racing, not like my life flashing through my mind, just thoughts about the situation.

*UGH*

Her second attempt didn’t work either. My mind returned to my thoughts:

Kat brought me to visit her country and meet her friends and family, and I die. She’s going to have to call my mom and explain to her that I’m dead. Wow, that’s a shitty call to make. Is now the time to pull the emergency break that stops the train, or will people just be mad at me because I made them late. Nothing like a dead guy that made an entire train full of people late. Will they move my body somewhere else, or just leave it in the room? Would the other two people in the room like to sleep with a dead body in there? I hope they move me so those people can sleep. Maybe I should leave the room and run up to the front of the car where the lady in charge is… but she may just smack me on the back…

*UGH*

She tried a third time. Still didn’t work.

My mind floated to the conversation I had about travel insurance.

“…and if you die, this policy covers shipping your body home.”

“Well, that won’t matter much to me because I’ll be dead!”

Wow, that’s ironic now… “…isn’t it ironic… don’t you think” Oh man, Alanis… not a good time… Maybe I should go and die out in the hallway where the guy is smoking. Then at least I’d be out of the room and less of a bother, and they’d have to move me somewhere. Yup, that’s it, I’ll go out and die in the hallway.

I went to stand up…

*UGH*

The combination of me getting up, and Kat trying for the fourth time worked, and the food came up and out of my mouth and onto the floor. The old lady continued to read her book.

Kat and I sat there quietly for a few minutes before I said, “Yeah… sooo… thanks for saving my life.” She got this shocked look on her face, and I realized that she didn’t know how screwed I was. The whole thing lasted a minute or so, and I was without air the entire time. I may have had another 30 seconds before I’d pass out and likely die on the floor of the train. Yeah, I was pretty screwed, and luckily she didn’t realize it because I was completely calm the entire time. I’m thankful that Kat is a quicker learner.

Another minute passed and she said, “CHEW YOUR FOOD MORE!” She was right.

If you don’t know the Heimlich Maneuver, please take a moment and read this. You never know when you may have to use it, or quickly teach someone else.

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Nearly Two Months of Fatherhood

It’s been nearly two months since Broderick was born, and I’ve learned a few things:

  • I’m not as patient as I thought I was.
    I can only take crying for a bit, then I snap. My frustration level creeps up slowly, slowly and then it jumps all the way up and I get angry. He’s a little boy, and I need to learn to chill.

  • Listening to music helps me chill.
    If he’s freaking out, listening to music with headphones on helps a lot. Sure, I can still hear him crying, but it’s not the predominant sound, so I don’t get frustrated. I never hit that 100%, and a chill dad can help to chill a crying baby.

  • I like smiles.
    In the last week Brody has started to smile while reacting to things we’ve done, and it’s awesome. The other day I was making funny faces and sounds and he gave me the biggest smile, and it was so rewarding.

  • I like making funny sounds.
    I think I’ve always liked making weird sounds, but having a kid allows me to make weird sounds for a reason. He likes the silly songs I make up while changing him, or doing his exercises, so I’ll keep making them for him. I’m sure that’ll change when he hits his teenage years…

  • I’m getting used to this.
    We’ve started having a routine with him, and everyone seems to have gotten used to it. I have my tasks, Kat has her’s, and Brody seems fine with everything. We’re getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and he’s sleeping 6-8 hours in one stretch in the night… I can deal with this. It’s still a bit odd to look at him and think “wow, I made this little guy,” but I’m getting used to it.

  • I’ve become obsessed with having a clean kitchen.
    I have no idea if this is related to having a kid, but in the past week I’ve become completely obsessed with the kitchen being clean before I go to bed. No, it’s not spotless, but I want all the dishes away, and the mess gone. We have a habit of leaving something on the counter, then 2 days later there are 15 things on the counter and it’s a pain to clean, so I’m trying to do my part to keep the house clean even night. I think I’m driving Kat crazy because I get after her if she leaves something out for 5 mins. Oops.

  • I’m starting to remember things from my childhood.
    We’ve been learning some children’s rhymes, and that’s triggered memories of my childhood – mostly rhymes my parents used to sing to me. Sometimes there are other things, like games I used to play, places I’d go with friends, or toys I had. It’s neat to have 30 year old memories triggered. At least nothing has been traumatic!

  • Babies get you smiles.
    I’ve taken Brody out for walks by myself in the stroller a few times, and older women give me the biggest smiles. Maybe they aren’t used to seeing fathers out with their kids, and seeing one makes them happy? I’m not sure what it is, but it’s nice to have people smile at you.

I’m sure I’ve learned a few other things in the past 2 months, but that’s all I can think of right now. Or maybe it’s that I know Brody will be up in 6-7 hours and I want sleep. Yup, that’s probably it.

A little story for Valentine’s Day

I was cleaning my office the other day, and I came across something that made me smile. It was a Kinder Surprise that Kat gave me September 12, 2009. How do I remember the date? How could I not…

Our first date was May 20, 2005; we met at West Edmonton Mall and went to play a game of mini-golf (glow-in-the-dark), and then for a bite to eat at Boston Pizza (I ate while Kat watched me – apparently she wasn’t hungry). It wasn’t a typical date, as it was interesting, and didn’t involve two people sitting in a crowded movie theatre, but it worked. It was also the first time Kat had played mini-golf, AND she got a hole-in-one. We met on LavaLife.com and started chatting online before deciding to meet up (I remember wanting to meet her earlier, but I had a trip to Vancouver planned, so it had to wait). Kat would later tell me that she had no intention of actually meeting, because I wasn’t her type. The date ended with me dropping her off at her place, wondering whether I should try to kiss her when she asked me, “Well, are you going to kiss me?!” It was unexpected, and a relief; I didn’t have to worry about rejection. Phew!

That date lead to another, and another, and another. Kat would start spending weekends at my place, then she would move from the West end to an apartment a few blocks away, and then finally into my condo. It was the first time I had lived with someone that wasn’t a family member, and it went really, really well. Eventually we would move into our house; a sure sign that we were in this for the long haul.

So, what made that Kinder Surprise so special? Inside was a note:

Obviously I said yes. We already had a trip to Las Vegas planned, so we turned that into our wedding. We managed to keep it a secret; only our friends Tyler and Lara knew, and that’s only because we invited them to join us for the wedding. November 21, 2009, almost exactly 6 1/2 years since our first date, we got married in our hotel room at the Venetian. It was a wonderful day.

So there’s my little story of love for today. I’m glad I said ‘yes’ to the question Kat asked.

Things that are Awesome

My last post was such an emotional roller-coaster that I figured I should post something a bit more upbeat. Here are some random, and not-so-random, awesome things:

  1. Pinball Arcade
    As you know, I love pinball, and this game recreates real pinball tables in virtual form, and it’s coming out in less than an hour. The game launches with 4 tables (Tales of the Arabian Nights, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Black Hole and Theatre of Magic), and they’re working on more tables to release later on. I was a beta tester for the game, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s coming out for iPhones/iPads today, and other consoles and platforms later on.
  2. “The Losers”
    This is a comic series I ripped through about a week ago. It came out a few years ago, and tells the story of a group of CIA officers that were screwed over by a superior, and want to right some wrongs. There was a movie based on the comic which starred Idris Elba (who is also awesome). It’s only 32 issues, so it was a quick read.
  3. Archaia Entertainment
    This is a small comic company, but they’re awesome. They take a lot of foreign comics and translate them to English, then release them.I’ve read the three volumes of “The Killer” that they’ve put out, and managed to track down “Secret History” (volume 1 was out of print, but Chapters actually had a copy in stock). They’ve also started releasing comics based on some Jim Henson properties – Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller, The Dark Crystal, and Tale of Sand (a screenplay that was never made into a movie). Their books are all really high quality, and the ones I’ve read have been excellent stories.
  4. My kid
    Yes, he poops a lot, and cries a lot, but Broderick is pretty awesome to have around. Kat has gone out with him a few times and left me at home, and it’s really weird not having him around.
  5. Books
    I’ve been trying to read more lately, and thankfully a writer friend (Lee Goldberg), and some of his friends had a big Kindle book giveaway last week. There were 75 books for free, and many of them were short stories. While I enjoy novels, short stories can be a blast as well, simply because you can read them in much less time (which is something I’m short of). I have so many books that I bought and haven’t read yet – I hope to make time for them sooner rather than later.
  6. Twitter
    I’ve met a ton of really awesome people on Twitter! Both virtually, and in person. Edmonton has a wonderful Twitter community. If you aren’t on Twitter, you should give it a shot.
  7. Kat
    This wasn’t a list of things in order, but I saved the best to the last. She’s an awesome wife, and a super awesome mother, and I can’t imagine going through life without anyone else by my side. She makes me laugh, she makes our house pretty, she pushes me, and makes me a better person, and for that she is the most awesome.
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