69-year-old man choked on a half feet kebab

In what could be termed as a ‘one-of-a-kind medical emergency’ at Artemis Hospital, Major Rajinder, a 69-year-old former Army officer, was saved after he choked on a six-inch seekh kabab.

Choked of the massive food item, Major Rajinder was rushed to Artemis hospital. It was a near-death experience for the ex- Army man as the piece of mutton seekh kebab blocked the passage of his windpipe. It culminated in no air entry into the lungs, leading to minimum oxygen levels in his body.

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Eventually, the patient was wheeled into the emergency of Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon. Upon arrival at the hospital’s emergency room, he had to undergo a lifesaving procedure called tracheostomy for creating an artificial passage to breathe from the neck. A hole was surgically opened in the neck up to the trachea. However, the treatment was ineffective as the kebab was stuck below the artificial passage.

The routine ENT instruments were inadequate due to the large size and critical nature of the obstruction. Keeping the patient alive with minimum oxygen levels in the body proved to be a huge challenge for the surgeons and anaesthetist. They finally resorted to an out-of-the-box technique, using an abdominal laparoscopic grasper (used in gall bladder removal surgery) to remove the kebab from the windpipe. The unique technique turned out to be successful and effective as compared to the conventional method.

As a matter of fact, there have been several cases of people choking to death from seekh kebabs. According to Dr Shashidhar Tatavarthy, senior ENT consultant (surgery) at Artemis Hospital, “Past cases, as published in the UK, reveal that such kind of choking has had calamitous outcome, with patients getting no time to reach hospital. While smaller obstructions could be removed by exerting pressure on the patient’s chest, there was no other option in Major Rajinder’s case. The only option to remove the kebab was with endoscopic interference.”

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Talking about the peculiar case in jest, Dr Tatavarthy further added, “No doubt kebab is a “food worth dying for”, but I never anticipated it this way.”

According to Shweta Gogia, associate consultant, department of ENT at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, “A large chunk of food getting stuck in airways is definitely rare. Sometimes, people drink while having food, and gulp it down without chewing it. We have seen many cases of foreign objects, such as hairpins getting stuck in airways. It calls for an emergency treatment.”

Certainly, the unique surgery by Artemis Hospital was not only successful in saving the patient’s life but also restored the faith in medics, who can save lives with their presence of mind.


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