Octopus Stuck in Esophagus

On the night of March 15, 2018, Jian, a man of 55 years, emerged from an upscale restaurant in the heart of Singapore’s downtown area. He immediately became nauseous and regrettably vomited on the pavement. Bystanders hastily stepped aside to avoid the mess, and a woman elegantly attired in high heels and a splendid gown uttered a disparaging comment, presuming that Jian was intoxicated.

However, Jian remained completely sober, and his current state was one of profound embarrassment. He was, in fact, a businessman striving to make a lasting impression on his clients during dinner. As he sat at the table with them, a growing pressure in his chest became unbearable, forcing him to abruptly rise and dash outside to relieve himself by vomiting.

After Jian rose from his seat and dabbed his mouth, a thought crossed his mind: “Now that he had expelled whatever made him sick, he should start feeling better.” However, while he stood there, he realized that the discomfort in his chest remained unabated. Despite his desire to continue conversing with his clients, Jian felt that the only sensible course of action was to gracefully excuse himself for the evening and head home to rest, hoping to alleviate whatever ailment was afflicting him.

However, as Jian returned to the restaurant and resumed his seat at the table, he barely had a chance to explain the situation to his clients before abruptly rushing back outside and retching on the street once more. It was evident to Jian at this moment that something was seriously amiss. Consequently, he found himself unable to relay the details to his clients; his immediate priority was to reach a hospital.

He dashed across the street, hopped into his car, and sped away. Upon reaching the hospital, fear consumed him, causing him to park his car at an odd angle with the door left ajar. As he sprinted toward the emergency room, he struggled to convey the urgency of his situation to the receptionist, his words failing him. Eventually, he simply slumped into a nearby chair.

The hospital bustled with activity, yet the urgency surrounding this man’s condition was unmistakable to the attentive nurses. Without hesitation, they rushed to his side, swiftly lifting him onto a stretcher and wheeling him into an isolated examination room. Once inside, they commenced the vital signs assessment and meticulously examined his exterior for any signs of trauma that might offer clues to his ailment. Regrettably, their thorough search yielded no apparent answers.

Once they confirmed Jian’s stability—his breathing and heart rate were normal, despite his temporary inability to speak—the medical team determined that their next course of action would involve conducting a CT scan. A CT scan, a specialized imaging technique, provides intricate details of the internal workings of the body, akin to an exceptionally detailed X-ray.

Following Jian’s CT scan, the findings left everyone puzzled. Positioned at the lower end of Jian’s esophagus was a rather substantial, solid white object. Just to clarify, the esophagus is the tube connecting the throat and the stomach, serving as the pathway for food to travel. However, the foreign object lodged in Jian’s esophagus bore no resemblance to food; in fact, it strangely resembled a human hand.

At that moment, the medical team was confronted with an enigmatic situation. Their knowledge was limited, and they had scant information to work with. All they could discern was the sudden arrival of a well-dressed middle-aged man at the hospital, who had inexplicably lost the ability to speak and had collapsed. The primary concern was the foreign object obstructing Jian’s esophagus. Despite the doctors’ uncertainty about the specifics, their immediate focus was clear: they needed to remove this foreign object from Jian’s throat.

Jian was rushed into the emergency operating room, and at a certain moment, a physician entered with a slender, extended tube equipped with a camera at its tip. The initial step in this procedure involved inserting the camera into Jian’s body to investigate the object causing the blockage in his esophagus.

After Jian had been prepared for surgery, the doctor carefully inserted a camera down his throat. Eventually, the camera captured a clear view of a white object lodged in his esophagus. When the camera unveiled the nature of this object, the entire medical team in the operating room collectively gasped in disbelief.

To comprehend the scene before us, we must rewind several hours. On that evening, Jian had made a deliberate choice to leave a lasting impression on his affluent clients. He had chosen to escort them to an exclusive restaurant, one they had yet to experience, and he had a particular culinary treasure in mind for them to savor. This delicacy bore the name ‘sannakji.

Sannakji, a Korean delicacy, enjoys popularity within specific communities; however, it comes with significant risks. In South Korea, there are annual reports of at least six deaths attributed to sannakji consumption, as this dish features a live octopus. When indulging in sannakji, one literally consumes the octopus while it is still in motion, raising the likelihood of it becoming lodged in the throat.

While Jian attempted to consume the live octopus, the octopus, clearly unwilling to be consumed, vigorously thrashed its tentacles. Eventually, its suckers clung onto his esophagus, bringing his consumption to an abrupt halt. The exact duration of the octopus’s survival within Jian’s esophagus remains uncertain, but it undeniably remained alive for a brief period. After Jian successfully swallowed it, the octopus continued to squirm, grasp, and desperately strive to break free.

That’s what led to the overwhelming pressure in Jian’s chest, leading to repeated bouts of vomiting. Consequently, when the medical team inserted a camera into Jian’s throat, they discovered an entire octopus lodged there. The octopus was successfully removed from Jian’s esophagus, and two days later, he was discharged, fully healed. It remains uncertain whether Jian ever ventured to try sannakji again.

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