Barry Saunders

Bad salmon? Summon help, soon

A genetically engineered salmon, top, and natural salmon of the same age. An upsurge in developing gene-edited animals points to potential benefits and raises questions.
A genetically engineered salmon, top, and natural salmon of the same age. An upsurge in developing gene-edited animals points to potential benefits and raises questions. NYT

My colleague and barbecue lover like no other Dennis Rogers wrote a terrific book called "It's Bad News When the Bartender Cries."

Do you know what else is bad news?

When you undercook some stuffed salmon.

Worse news is when you undercook stuffed salmon and then eat it, anyway. Two pieces.

Do that, and it's a good bet you'll find yourself gazing out the window, awaiting the arrival of an ambulance or St. Peter. You won’t care which comes first, because either promises blessed relief.

Relax. This isn't a paean to stomach pain, food poisoning or man's inhumanity to himself, mainly mine to me. It's instead a celebration and a thank you – a celebration that I'm still here and a thank you to the people who helped make that possible: paramedics.

Ever had food poisoining before?

Neither had I, until last week. Imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had, add to that the nastiest meal you’ve ever eaten – and then repeatedly whack yourself upside the head with a bagful of rotten hardboiled eggs. All of this is occurring while you’re inside that spinning house that fell on the Wicked Witch of the West.

That’s what struck your humble servant nine days ago. As do too many men, I suffered stoically for a couple of hours, hoping that self-medicating with copious amounts of ginger ale or a bottle of pluto water would make everything alright. Neither worked.

It took a truly herculean effort to muster the energy and equillibrium to slide off the couch, find the phone and punch in the numbers of a couple of buddies who are physicians. Say, homes. Can I ride this thing out or should I seek treatment?

Both, after hearing my symptoms, said go to the hospital or call 911, dummy.

The 911 operator asked what was the emergency and I told him I'd eaten something that didn't agree with me.

Even in my bad-seafood-induced delirium, I didn't divulge what I'd eaten, because we all remember what happened when an ailing Fred Sanford told the doctor that he'd eaten some eight-day-old collard greens that didn't agree with him.

"Eight-day-old collard greens wouldn't agree with Superman," Aunt Esther scolded.

That’s why I kept what had led to my distress a secret until the paramedics arrived nine minutes after my call.

The two who showed up were so professional that they didn't even laugh or gaze upon me pityingly when I confessed what had led to my gastrointestinal distress.

If anything, they acted as though the most natural thing in the world was hearing a grown man admitting to eating two huge pieces of undercooked stuffed salmon even when he knew the first one didn't taste quite right. I shall forever be grateful for their non-judgmental attitude.

Of course, it’s conceivable that they laughed uncontrollably when they got back to the ambulance, but who could blame ’em?

They whipped out their bags, stethoscopes and needles and proceeded to listen, probe, stick and question. All of my vitals were vital or within what you’d expect considering my condition, they said, but still they asked if I wanted to go to the hospital or stay at home.

Days later, when the crisis had passed, I stopped by one of the Durham County EMS stations that serves my neighborhood to thank them for saving my life. I also asked how many calls for help they receive daily and do they usually end up transporting callers to the hospital.

Rick Edinger, an emergency medical tech, said they receive about 90 calls for assistance daily. “Most are general sick-person calls,” Edinger said.”Typically, we try to take people to the hospital when we come out. We encourage them to go” to seek additional treatment.

So did the two who came to save me, before adding “The choice is yours.”

Hmmm. The prospects of writhing in agony for another couple of hours at home or waiting for St. Peter to knock were not appealing.

Because both were more appealing than the prospect of telling even more medical professionals what had laid me so low, I chose to stay home.

“Well, you call us if you need us,” one of them said.

I haven’t had to yet, but there is still a lot of stuffed salmon out there waiting to be undercooked.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811,, @BarrySaunders9