Medical care for choking victim
Here's the scene: It's Easter dinner, and the family's adult daughter begins choking. She doesn't want to cause a scene, so she quietly goes into another room. The rest of the family doesn't know anything is wrong until she loses consciousness and they hear her fall. They get to her and do the Heimlich, after which she starts breathing again.
So, she's not been able to breathe for long enough to pass out plus about 30 seconds. This isn't long enough to do permanent damage, but I imagine she should go to the emergency room. What would they do? Would they run tests, and which tests? Would they try to keep her overnight?
I wouldn't take someone to the ER in that circumstance (assuming she choked on food); I don't think most people would.
The only thing that would be treated in the ER is if she hurt something when she fell. Hit her head on a table, broke her wrist when she tried to catch herself, or something similar.
If she *was* choking but *now* is fine, there's not much the doctor could do. If it was a frequent occurrence they might do a CT or just an xray to see if there was narrowing of the esophagus or something wrong with her trachea, but for an isolate incident, that would be overkill.
That's not to say your character might not go anyway - I remember one twenty-something woman who came in with a report of vomiting - turned out she'd puked once, a couple of days before, and now wanted to now why she'd puked. Uh, yeah.
And lacerations that turn out to be a minor scratch, put a bandaid on it and send them home.
So send her to the ER, but probably no tests. No overnight stay unless she seriously damaged something.
How does the family know she passed out from choking?
If you want her to go to the ER, have her pass out. They go check on her and realize she isn't breathing. In a panic, one of them starts rescue breathing and blows the chunk of food into her lung. She can breathe again and regains consciousness, but now has a chunk of hotdog or something in her lung and they have to take care of that.
People can get freaky and forget to check for basic things in an emergency. Especially if it's a loved one. Even strangers though. One of my friends was choking in a restaurant and had to fight off a very large man that was determined to give her CPR instead of the Heimlich, while choking. Luckily a waiter intervened and she got the correct help.
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I question whether she'd go walking into another room if she was choking. When you can't breath, most people are rather shocked and completely focused on this weird feeling of not breathing. It's quick, it's sudden, and you don't tend to move about.
Have her go into the other room, then get something lodged in her throat and start choking. And no reason to take her to the ER unless the object can't be completely dislodged (sometimes it won't dislodge at all and sometimes it only partially dislodges).
Best of luck,
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Thanks everyone! I didn't figure the ER would be able to do anything once the obstruction was out. It saves me from having to write an ER scene that wouldn't move the plot, so you've made my job easier.
The running to another room idea is based on a friend of mine who started choking at a restaurant. He panicked and ran to the bathroom, where he Heimliched himself and coughed it out. Nobody knew anything was wrong until he came back and told everyone. I figured it was the same instinct as people trying to run away from the fire when their clothes are burning.
I have had this experience when I was a youngster. I agree with jclarkdawe; it can happen in a moment.
The weirdest part is when someone first comes out of it, at least it was for me. It sort of feel like you're being pulled out of a pit, so to speak. On the "things to do that are fun" scale, I would give it a -4.
Last edited by alleycat; 11-18-2012 at 10:47 AM.