It was 9 p.m. — I know because I’d just taken my nightly pills — when the burning in my throat started. This wasn’t like a sore throat you get during a cold. It was like someone took a knife, dipped the knife in acid, and then ran the acid-knife down my esophagus. I started crying, half in pain, half in panic, and half because the burning was wreaking havoc on my sinuses — yes, these were 150% tears.
While I debated going to the ER, I gulped down a few glasses of ice water and a sleeve of off-brand Ritz crackers, then, obviously, checked Twitter to make sure that, in the event my throat closed up and killed me, my final tweet wouldn’t be a joke about Rule 34 or something. (Turns out it would have been a retweet about the four worst spiders of 2011, which I think is acceptable by anyone’s standards.)
The water and crackers seemed to help somewhat, but my sinuses seemed to be trying to crawl out of my face. I had to blow my nose every couple minutes, and on the thirtieth nose-blow or so, the burning migrated from my throat to my right nostril. I know Googling medical symptoms is like boarding a rocket ship to Planet Crazytime, but I tried anyway, continuing to blow my nose every so often. Google only confirmed that my body had begun to exist in some sort of alternate reality — I couldn’t find information about anything remotely close to what I was experiencing.
Then I blew my nose yet again, and oh, no big deal, but a half-dissolved pill came out. Apparently, one of my nightly pills had gone down just fine, but the other I had somehow swallowed upward into my sinuses, where it had been steadily burning away at my flesh as it worked its way through my nasal passages and out into a tissue.
Let me emphasize that this is a pill I take every single night, and have for six years. That’s over 2,000 times I’ve swallowed this pill — rehearsals from which it seems I gleaned nothing. Let me also emphasize that I took the pill with water, as always. I never ever dry-swallow pills because I’m terrified they’ll get caught in my throat. Pay attention, Alanis, because that is irony.
So, yay, happy ending, the pill was expelled … except that a little later, a second part of the pill came out of my nose. Followed intermittently by several little pill crumbs. I tried to use a sinus rinse (same basic deal as a neti pot) to flush out any remaining debris, but my sinuses were so ravaged by the errant pill that it felt like pouring a liquid grenade through my head. So I just stayed up all night blowing my nose and reading horror stories about other pills in other, sometimes permanently damaged, noses. In the end, the sun came up, and I seem to have been all right, probably.
Lauren O'Neal is from the Internet and lives in Austin, Texas.