Nearly drowned

Three days ago, I nearly drowned in the shower.

That sounds pretty dramatic, doesn’t it? But it’s true. A combination of hayfever, a lingering cold, and jala neti almost did me in.

I came home from several joyous hours at 555 on Saturday afternoon covered in cedar pollen which was making me itch, so I hopped in the shower to get it off my skin and shampoo it out of my hair.

Thinking I had spent quite a lot of time outside breathing in 花粉 (Japanese for pollen) I decided to rinse my sinuses with jala neti. This is an aryuvedic practice of pouring warm saline solution into one nostril and out the other. It cleans out the dust, pollen, and snot very effectively.

After finishing the rinse and taking a few clearing breaths in the steamy shower, I barked some tortured coughs leftover from a cold I had last month.

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe at all. My nostrils were totally blocked. Breathing in through my mouth did nothing. I tried to coughed out an exhale but nothing. I screamed for help with all my might and though there was no sound, it opened a passage large enough for me to wheeze through.

I sounded like a steam engine with a real problem. Darth Vader on helium. You’ve seen movies where someone is choking and they make a sort of strangled sound struggling to breathe? That was me.

My instinct was to panic. My brain rationally told me that if I could make a sound, I had enough air. After a minute of trying to shake myself out of it, literally bouncing up and down hard, nothing changed. Panic rose again.

I ran out of the shower, grabbing a big purple towel for modesty and warmth, then stumbled out of the house and up the office stairs to get Tod’s help. I pretty much collapsed on his floor, but was able to gurgle out, “Help me.”

Which he did, somehow. Within a minute or two, I was coughing up water, crying, and gasping. It was another half an hour before I could breathe normally. I was very scared and confused.

At that point, I hadn’t figured it out. The breath constriction felt like big brother of the anaphylaxis I sometimes get from eating scallops. Did I hit my allergen load (pollen + cats + whatever else) and push it over the edge somehow in the shower?

Eventually, I realised what coughing up salty water meant and how that could happen only if I’d breathed in salt water. My coughing in the shower unwittingly dislodged and inhaled saline that lingered in my sinuses.

I had nearly drowned in the shower. Wow. Holy shit.

It’s been three days and I am still coughing saline. My lungs hurt but not as much as they did at first. The dizziness is fading. The heart palpitations (no surprise my heart wanted to get in on the party) feel more gentle, too. I think I will be fine but I might put my jala neti practice on hold a while.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.