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Barbee Brown Swallowed A Grill Brush Bristle

4:41 PM, May 24, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Memorial Day weekend is upon us and a lot of families will be firing up their grills in the coming days.

But before you start getting the grill ready, a Triad woman has a cautionary tale.

She had to have surgery to remove a gas-cleaning brush bristle lodged in her throat.

"Fried chicken. Don't do grilled anymore. It's not healthier." Barbee Brown said jokingly from her hospital bed.

Brown can laugh about her injuries now but it took eight days, two surgeries and a lot of worry to get here.

"Scary to think back and think of the what ifs. What if one of the kids would have ate it?" she asked rhetorically.

Brown said last Thursday her family was in the mood for grilled chicken and so her husband fired up the grill.

"He brought the food in, we sat it on the table, I started serving it out to the children and everybody," Brown explained." The very first bite I cut up and ate, I put it in my mouth and swallowed it and I immediately felt like it was stuck in my throat. And that was the end of dinner."

The Browns rushed to a walk-in clinic but nurses sent the 39-year-old mother back home, thinking it was just a bruised esophagus.

"I knew there was something stuck in my throat but I felt as if no one believed me," Brown said.

By Monday, her symptoms had gotten worse.

"I go to bed at night, I was scared, thinking: 'what if I started to choke on it?' because I could feel it in my throat. So, you know, I was nervous."

Brown finally called her doctor on Tuesday.

X-rays and scans of her esophagus revealed the object lodged close to her spinal cord.

She was sent to Moses Cone Hospital for two surgeries: the first to find the object, and a second to remove it.

"It was about ¾ of an inch long, and about the diameter of a hair but rigid metal," explained Doctor David Shoemaker, the Ear, Nose & Throat doctor who performed the surgery.

Shoemaker says he was concerned because the bristle had punctured through the membrane in Browns esophagus.

According to the hospital, Brown was the second patient Shoemaker had operated on in the past week and the fourth in the last two years.

Even the Centers for Disease Control has warned about the brush bristles.

"Don't use metal brushes, it's not worth it. Find something else to clean your grill. I don't think you should be able to buy them," Brown added.

Doctor Shoemaker says he doesn't want to alarm anyone as families head into the Memorial Day weekend, perhaps with plans to grill.

He says feeling something lodged in your throat is fairly normal.

However, it becomes a concern when the symptoms last 24 to 48 hours and you have a fever, as well as, trouble swallowing.

There are alternatives to grill-cleaning brushes, including, using foil to cover the grill surface or using a stone cleaner. 

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