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MARCUS BROTHERTON New York Times Bestselling Author

On baby daughters, X-rays, and life lessons learned in emergency rooms

Dec 17, 2013 // By Marcus Brotherton


I ate WHAT?

I was taking a 10-minute afternoon catnap when my wife rushed into the bedroom and shouted, “Help! Amie’s choking!”

Amie is our 7-month old baby girl. I tell ya—there’s nothing that makes a parent snap to action quicker than hearing those words of terror.

The baby was still breathing okay—that was our main concern. She was sort of smacking her tongue around her lips and trying to push something down her throat. If you’ve ever seen a dog trying to eat peanut butter, you get the picture.

We probed around with our fingers in her mouth and didn’t find anything. We got a flashlight and shined it down Amie’s tiny esophagus, hoping to discover the culprit. Still nothing.

Amie didn’t appear to be in pain. Not even in discomfort. She wore a confused expression on her face like what had happened was entirely new to her.

And yet she also wore a strangely triumphant look on her cherub face. …

Like a cat that swallowed a canary.

Fast forward to that evening when Mary and I were getting ready for bed.

Mary was taking off her earrings when suddenly she exclaimed—“Oh! I bet I know what Amie ate.”

Just before the choking incident, Mary had been playing on the floor with Amie. Now, hours later, Mary was wearing only one earring.

We rushed back and combed that area of the carpet, looking for the missing earring, but it was nowhere to be seen. We searched the house from high to low, but that earring was gone.

We concluded that it must have slipped off unnoticed. Amie had found it, (she loves anything bright and shiny) and surreptitiously slid it down the hatch. That’s why she looked so triumphant. The kid had put one over on old Mom and Dad.

The earring was not all that big, a tiny gold hoop about the width of a pinky finger. But it had a pointy clasp on it that was sure to be open—that was our main concern.

The clasp was edgy and sharp, and we could envision it wreaking all sorts of havoc on a baby’s insides as it tore its way through her system.

We phoned a friend who’s a surgeon and asked for advice.

“Little kids swallow things all the time,” he said. “It’ll probably pass through her no problem. Still, if it was my kid, I’d take her down to the Emergency Room this evening to get an X-ray. Then you’ll know for sure.”

Our two oldest kids were already asleep in bed, so I stood guard while Mary took Amie down to the ER. Sure enough, the X-ray didn’t lie.

“The earring will be out of your daughter in about three days,” the ER doc said. “Don’t worry. Just watch closely.”

Watch closely?

Thus, our grand quest began.

A baby can fill a diaper three times a day, no problem. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Amie had just starting eating a few solid foods, so her diapers’ contents ran the gamut of anything from flowery and scented to fetid and rank.

Have you ever combed through the contents of a dirty diaper?

They don’t teach you this in the army.

After three days the earring was still not out, so Mary took Amie to our regular doctor who took another X-ray. It showed that the earring was moving along, but quite slowly.

If not out within another week, the doctor recommended taking Amie down to the children’s hospital in Seattle for an endoscopy—a failsafe remedy for removing a foreign object from someone’s innards, but definitely not an easy procedure, as they need to put the person under to do it.

Back at home a couple days went by without any success. Then we got the bright idea of feeding Amie prunes. Prunes were new to Amie. She liked the taste, and over the next few days happily devoured a truckload.

We continued to dig. We diligent parents we. And dig. And dig. And dig.

On the eleventh and final day, the earring still had not appeared. Concerned now at the very real prospect of having our baby put under anesthesia, we took Amie back to our doctor for one last look.

The doctor took one final X-ray, and—drum roll please …

The earring was gone.

Somehow, despite all our best efforts of diaper sifting, we’d missed the very thing we were hoping to see. But who cares. The problem was solved.

All that remained was a $600 emergency room bill for me to pay.

Over the past few weeks I’ve wondered about this story, hoping to glean a greater lesson I could blog about.

I hoped for something that would greatly inspire your life. Perhaps something you’d share widely on social media outlets to edify your friends. Maybe even something that would help change the world.

At first, I considered how the treasure we want most in life sometimes has a sharp and pointy edge we don’t see.

But that didn’t feel quite right.

Next, I considered how sometimes we willingly place ourselves in messy situations—situations we have no business being in—in desperate hopes of finding something good that we never obtain.  

That didn’t seem quite right either.

In the end I gave up trying to find a larger lesson.

I concluded that when life turns difficult, sometimes the best thing we can do is just eat a lot of prunes and hope for the best.


Question: What funny stories do you have that maybe have a greater lesson? Or maybe don’t?