Between eating half of his prime rib dinner at the Creston Parks and Recreation Board fundraiser event at the Eagles Lodge, and watching the end of Arizona’s basketball win over California on television, Saturday night was more eventful than Scott Vicker planned on.
The Creston News Advertiser managing editor was at the Eagles Lodge to cover the fundraiser that featured comedian Josh Alton. But, Vicker never made it to the show.
Seated near retired News Advertiser employee Birdie Sandeman and Cindy McDermott, respiratory therapist at Greater Regional Medical Center, Vicker realized a piece of prime rib was lodged in his throat.
This is not necessarily an unusual occurrence, as he had undergone an upper endoscopy, known as EGD, in 2013 to expand part of his esophagus when he was experiencing swallowing and digestive issues.
“There is a stricture that causes part of the esophagus to be narrower than it should be,” Vicker explained. “Usually if there is a blockage it eventually works its way down. This time, when I took a drink of water I noticed it didn’t go all the way down. I could feel it.”
Fortunately, Vicker’s breathing was not significantly restricted, but he could not swallow and couldn’t talk. When McDermott asked if he was OK he pointed to his chest.
CNA publisher Rich Paulsen had assisted Vicker in the restroom, providing another glass of water as Vicker attempted to cough up the lodged piece of meat.
“I came back to the table and I still couldn’t swallow, and Cindy asked if I was OK,” Vicker recalled. “At that point she and Dr. Erika Brown (GRMC family physician) helped me out.”
Vicker said Brown administered the the Heimlich maneuver, an abdominal thrust used to treat upper airway obstructions.
“When that didn’t really work, she said your next step, and you’re not going to like this, is that you’re going to the (hospital) emergency room,” Vicker said.
Paulsen transported Vicker to GRMC, where he met with ER physicians. Dr. Robert Kuhl, who performed the EDG on Vicker four years ago, was the surgeon on call. Vicker said that was a fortunate circumstance, since Kuhl was familiar with his condition.
“While I was waiting I felt a sense of relief, so I thought the blockage wasn’t there anymore, but since I was there he (Kuhl) suggested that we still do the EGD,” Vicker said. “It sounds like he found that the blockage was still there, but it had shifted enough that I was able to swallow. They put a balloon on the end of the scope to expand the esophagus so it’s less likely to happen again.”
Vicker was released from the surgical wing late Saturday night. That’s when he was able to watch one of his favorite college basketball teams, Arizona, win its game while watching television at his parent’s house. On Sunday his only symptoms were fatigue and some soreness in his throat and esophagus.
He feels fortunate that it wasn’t worse. Vicker and Paulsen expressed their appreciation for the quick response of GRMC personnel at the event.
“I’m not a doctor,” Paulsen said. “All I could do was get him a glass of water when he thought that might help. Cindy and Dr. Brown were great help and knew that it was something that he should go and get checked out. Thank goodness it wasn’t any worse than it was.”
“I can’t express enough gratitude to Cindy and Dr. Brown for their help and for them to being willing to step up and be there to help me out in my time of need,” Vicker said.