STEVE CANAVAN: Pronged attack could have left me a goner Â
If I'm being honest, Tuesday didn't pan out as I'd hoped. Everything was going pretty well until lunchtime
I'd done a spot of gardening (put the green bin out); had my morning swim (18 lengths, managing the last two without armbands); and written the third chapter of my brilliant Scandinavian noir thriller The Swedish Undertaker (to be released in hardback in September, once I've found a publisher who doesn't respond to my letters with the words '˜please don't bother us again').
Then it all went wrong.
In the canteenÂ I ordered a jacket potato, with beans and cheese if you must know, and was tucking in when, as I swallowed, I had an odd feeling. This was followed by a strange sensation at the back of my throat and as I wonderedÂ what it was, I glanced at the plastic fork I was using and noticed aÂ prongÂ was missing. I'd eaten it.
I'm not one to panic so I threw my potato to one side, sprinted to the nearest computer, and Googled '˜can swallowing plastic cutlery kill you?'
The first result was an article from an American newspaper with the headline, '˜Swallowed Fork Shard Punctured Man's Organs'.
Eyes wide with horror and checking to see if I still had a pulse, I read on: 'David Edmiston unintentionally swallowed a piece of a plastic fork while eating lunch. The fragment punctured his colon, intestine and other organs and he was hospitalized for two weeks '“ 11 days of which wereÂ spent in the intensive care unit. The shard of plastic caused stroke-like symptoms.'
I raised my arms above my head, smiled, and sang the chorus of Simon and Garfunkel's Homeward Bound '“ so I hadn't had a stroke, but I was experiencing slight stomach pain and concludedÂ the fork had already punctured my stomach lining and I was suffering irreversible internal bleeding.
I sought advice from a colleague who looked at me as if studying a complicated equation and said: 'You swallowed your own fork?'
'I obviously didn't do it intentionally,'Â I said, slightly manically.
'It was an accident. Clearly I don't deliberately go around eating plastic forks '“ I prefer a more balanced diet.' HeÂ was no help so I did what any grown man would do and rang my mother.
This seemed sensible as mum keeps a medical encyclopedia on her bedside table and considers herself the world's leading authority on all ailments. She rings the local GPs not to book an a appointment but to advise them.
I told her what had happened. She reacted as if I'd informed her a small group of masked men were holed up outside her house with semi-automatic rifles and were about to enter her property. 'Oh my god,'Â she screamed down the phone, voice quivering. 'This is serious Steven,'Â she said, with emphasis on the word serious. 'You must go to the hospital immediately '“ if this pierces your intestine you will not live to see the end of the day.'
I rang 111, the NHS helpline, and said I was awfully sorry to bother them but I'd just swallowed a plastic fork.
I'd hoped the woman on the line '“ Bethany, lived in the Rhondda Valley (we got chatting) '“ would tell me I was fine, but instead she advised that I present myself at my A&E within the hour. This panicked me. Clearly I was facing a race against time to stay alive. I informed my boss I had to leave immediately.
And as I headed towards the door, another colleague shouted, '˜how long will you be gone '“ a forknight?' Hilarious.Â
To cut a long story short '“ because you've things to do and there's only so much we can fit on this page '“ I spent five hours at the hospital and had two X-rays, the second of which revealed something in my throat that resembled the missing bit of the fork. The consultantÂ said: 'It should pass through the system naturally, though it might smart a bit at the other end.'
I have spent the past four days living in fear and grimacing every time I perch on the toilet, but thus far nothing of interest has emerged.
If there's no column next week, you know why...