I, Persephone

Yesterday was eventful. In the same way August 9 1945 was to, say, a shoemaker in Nagasaki. And probably like that day, this one started in a very ordinary way. I was at the breakfast table, chatting with Rook and Pookie as they prepared to sit for their online classes, hers as a student, his as a professor.

I was talking about the Mahad building collapse because I had just read the day before that a 4-year-old boy was pulled out alive, hours after the crash. He had survived because his mother had thrown herself on him to protect him against the worst. It had worked. For him. She, and his two other siblings, most of his family, were all dead. Why did I need to talk about it first thing in the morning? Because misery loves company, alright? This isn’t the important bit.

While engaging in this morbid discussion, I was also setting a terrible example for Pookie, by chomping on pomegranate seeds. This, after lecturing her several times in the past about the dangers of talking whilst eating. And so perhaps, to drive home the point of the lectures to her as well as me, some vengeful deity somewhere said ‘Hah!’ And moments later, so did I. Except I said the ‘Hah!’ because I was choking. On a goddamn pomegranate seed that I had inhaled.

I coughed. Rook came and thumped my back in a manner entirely contradictory to someone who’d never raise a hand to a woman. Pookie’s face crumpled with the deep anxiety only a 6-year-old can feel. And I coughed and coughed till I could breathe.

Except.

I tried to breathe deeply. And ended up coughing because you see, the seed was still lodged in my windpipe. Damned thing wouldn’t come out. Meanwhile, the online class was about to start. So as Rook and Pookie entered the hallowed pathways of virtual learning, I did what any sane millennial would do. I looked up WebMD.

After fifteen minutes of being terrified by what I read, I booked a virtual appointment with an ENT. Who told me to get an X-Ray. Rook drove me to get it. The people there told me the results would come in the evening. Till which time, I was to languish in doldrums, marveling at the fact that I nearly died in a manner so ridiculous, I couldn’t have chosen it for a fictional character. Calculating the risk of getting a procedure during the middle of a Covid pandemic, from a doctor I don’t know, on my fucking respiratory tract. You know, that thing most susceptible to Covid infections? All the while, feeling that damned seed poking in my airway.

It was beyond ridiculous. At least it took three pomegranate seeds to put Persephone in Hell. Here, it was just one (I hope) that was bringing me down. Really puts your mortality in perspective, this sort of rubbish.

Rook tried to tell me that perhaps the seed had come out when I had coughed and perhaps it had hurt the airway a bit and that was what was causing the pricking sensation. When the X-ray report came, it showed nothing – unsurprising because a pomegranate seed isn’t made of metal and hence, unlikely to show in a damned X-ray. At which point, the doctor too, said that perhaps the airway had swollen a bit after the seed came out. It’s unlikely that someone your age could inhale a seed, he said, because that usually happens with very young or very old people. (Thanks, I guess?) He prescribed antibiotics, told me to wait a couple of days. If the discomfort persisted, then we’d have to have a bronchoscopy which is exactly as complicated as it sounds. It involved, for your information, putting me under general anesthesia, shoving a scope or camera down the windpipe to see if there’s a seed and if it’s there, removing it. It’s high-risk, he said.

I went to sleep, hoping for the best and drugged with the medicine he had prescribed. When I woke up today, the discomfort was a little better. Good, I thought, perhaps it was just the beginning of an infection and it’s beginning to go away. I went about my business before lying down again, since the meds had made me drowsy. And as I lay there, suddenly I coughed again and I felt… something pop into my mouth.

It was a pomegranate seed.

Which just goes to show that when it comes to medicine, you have to trust yourself. Only you know exactly what you’re feeling, what you’re going through. There’s a whole history of doctors downplaying women’s pain and health issues because of stupid biases. I’m not saying that’s what happened in this instance. But sometimes, you have to concede that you know best. Because sometimes, you really do.

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