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The actual bone swallowed was probably quite a bit smaller than these (Image: Tina Tiller)
The actual bone swallowed was probably quite a bit smaller than these (Image: Tina Tiller)

KaiJune 29, 2023

I went to A&E with a chicken bone in my throat. Here’s what they told me to do

The actual bone swallowed was probably quite a bit smaller than these (Image: Tina Tiller)
The actual bone swallowed was probably quite a bit smaller than these (Image: Tina Tiller)

Dinner at her favourite restaurant landed Beth Brash in A&E, where the doctor’s orders were to head straight to the dairy to source an unlikely remedy.

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Well, life gave me lemons but it turns out it was Coke on the menu. 

What unfolded at one of my favourite Wellington restaurants, KC Cafe, last Friday is a saga so bizarre it needed sharing. 

So there I am about to order my favourite dish, eggplant claypot (which – I feel for the story it’s worth mentioning – is so soft you could almost eat through a straw), but due to the influence of the brilliant @KC_Review on Instagram, I thought I would branch out and try something new. @KC_Review gave the Xinjiang chicken with fresh chilli and ginger a 7 out of 10, which in hindsight is just an OK rating from them (for reference, the eggplant claypot gets a 9), but as they point out, “it looks awesome” – and it really did.

The @KC_Review post where it all began

When I ordered it the two women at the counter both stopped what they were doing and piped up with questions of concern: “Have you had this dish before?”, “Can you handle spicy foods?”, “Are you OK with bones?” I brushed these all off with the nonchalance of a seasoned intrepid eater, almost using the line of questioning as a badge of honour, but this smug eater ran towards those red flags like they were bunting. 

My first bite of the chicken was delicious. I hadn’t tried it before but was glad I did. Oh wow, it was spicy – they had warned me, I guess – so with eyes streaming and stifling a cough, I swallowed. As it wedged itself into my oesophagus I thought, “Oh yes, there are the bones they talked about”, which quickly moved to, “Well, this is going to be embarrassing”. When you’re known for writing about food and running food events in the city, dying at one of your favourite restaurants would probably make the news. Oh well, at least they could say “she died doing what she loved”. 

The scene of the incident

Finally swallowing the chicken and my pride, the bone made its presence known in every centimetre of my throat and for the rest of the weekend. It wasn’t until Monday morning that I realised the pain hadn’t really subsided and so called Healthline. After a brief questionnaire, I was told to go to the accident and urgent care clinic immediately. 

There I was assessed, X-rayed and then brought into a room. Going through all the worst case scenarios, I thought the next stage would involve some sort of device down my throat. But the doctor assured me the bone was small, not a huge cause of concern and the pain was mostly from the scratch it had caused. The official medical advice and “after care” was something I did not expect. Neither did the doctor, who said, “I can’t believe I’m telling you to do this, but the ENT has said that drinking four cans of full-sugar Coke should help soften and dislodge the bone.” We both giggled at the absurdity of it; we also giggled and she apologised for having to write down “foreign object in orifice” which now, horrifyingly, is on my permanent medical record.

So off I trot, down to the Night & Day. Three cans of 440ml Coke were on special for $10, the exact prescribed amount but in a different dosage. Did they know I was coming, is this a common prescription? Is ThiS a BiG PhaRMa & CocA-COla AmaTiL CoNSpiRacY? 

This would be the most Coke I’d ever had in one sitting. I had flashbacks to growing up with a science teacher as a mother and doing this very experiment. We would put a chicken bone in a glass of Coke and after some time the bone became rubbery. It thrilled me as a child, but could this also explain why I’d never had four cans of Coke in one sitting? Parents take note. 

Turns out Coke is often used as medical-grade, human-safe Drano for the oesophagus. After I was jacked up on Coke and felt the need to share my experience on Instagram, plenty of medical staff responded with their stories of using Coke in the hospital. As well as dissolving and dislodging bones, it’s also used to clear blocked feeding tubes in situ. Someone else was advised by their doctor to drink a can of full-sugar Coke a day on their trip to Vietnam – “kills any bugs, he reckoned”. It worked, apparently. Other uses were to clean “blood off the highway” by first responders, and cleaning toilets and coins if you feel the need. Not to mention marinating meats, but I guess if we see what it does to bone, a bit of gristle is a walk in the park for this atomic bomb for the gut. 

I am thrilled to say it worked. The next day was noticeably better and by the one after I was back to normal. I am grateful for ACC, as it would be awkward to have to sue one of your favourite restaurants. Life lessons are: continue to try something new, but listen to the experts. And, if you’re downing a few cans a day of the good stuff, then maybe it’s time to give up the Coke habit. 

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