On Friday, April 29, 2019, Veronica Gill did what she does every weekday morning – wake up and get ready for work. Her morning routine resembles that of most people: brush her teeth, take care of her pets, make coffee and like many people, take a multivitamin.
After doing some research on health blogs, Veronica selected a women’s multivitamin based on its rave reviews. The only downside, people claimed, was that it was too large to swallow comfortably without splitting in half.
On that April morning, she took two of the vitamins simultaneously and immediately knew something was wrong.
“It felt like I could not take a complete breath, so much so that my voice sounded distorted,” said Gill. “In a panic, I grabbed a can of sparkling water from my fridge, hoping that the bubbles would help, but they didn’t.”
After her panic subsided, Veronica realized she was able to breathe and function normally and decided to go to work. Her husband drove her to UT Health San Antonio, where she works in the Marketing, Communications and Media department.
She still felt some discomfort when she arrived and explained the situation to her supervisor.
Gill’s coworkers took her to the university’s cafe to see if eating or drinking something would help.
“They gave me a taco, had me drink a soda and more water. Nothing was helping and I was starting to panic again,” she said.
“On our way back to our offices, we passed by the School of Health Professions Respiratory Care classrooms. A few students were gathered outside a classroom and my coworker asked them what I should do,” Gill said. The students suggested she talk to their professor, Dr. Ruben Restrepo, who was inside the classroom.
“I explained my situation to him and he very calmly told me to go to the emergency room. Don’t wait, go now,” she said. Dr. Restrepo assured her that everything was going to be ok, but she needed professional help.
After a trip to the ER, the vitamin was safely removed from her airway and things quickly returned to normal for Veronica.
A few months later, she sat down and talked to Dr. Restrepo to thank him and asked what advice he would give to others who find themselves in a similar situation.
“The most important thing is not to panic. When you’re anxious it’s very difficult to coordinate your breathing,” Restrepo said. “Also, seek professional help as soon as possible. You don’t want the object to be dislodged in the airway, so if it is trapped somewhere in the back of the throat, you don’t know exactly which pathway it is going to follow. Do not try to “finger hook” it out. Get to the ER immediately.”
Veronica was fortunate that the UT Health San Antonio campus is located near multiple emergency rooms. The duration of the trip to the ER could have meant the difference between life and death.
Though the situation was very serious, at the time, she now makes light of it saying, “As you can imagine, I no longer take two pills of any kind at a time!”
If you are ever faced with a similar situation as Veronica, remember Dr. Restrepo’s advice: stay calm and seek help.