A prank almost proved fatal when a 28-year-old man swallowed a dover sole he had just caught.
The man had been joking around with the 14cm fish and put it over his mouth but it wiggled free and jumped down his throat – causing a complete blockage.
Paramedics were called and when they arrived at Boscombe pier in Dorset on the night of 5 October they found the man, who has not been identified, had collapsed and stopped breathing.
Friends were performing CPR, as directed by an emergency medical dispatcher on the line from the 999 control room.
An initial assessment by paramedic Matt Harrison was that the patient was in a desperate situation, with a blocked airway and was now in cardiac arrest.
He and colleague Martyn Box, an operations officer, worked on the man and got a pulse back.
“The boys were giving really good CPR on our arrival as instructed by the control room staff,” Mr Box said.
“Initially we didn’t know the true extent of the situation or what the patient was choking on, but as we questioned them further we were told he had a whole fish stuck in his windpipe.”
Further assessment of his airway indicated that despite artificially ventilating him with a bag and mask, his chest remained silent, suggesting that there was total airway occlusion and despite best efforts he was not receiving any oxygen.
Mr Harrison said that re-assessment of the patient inside the ambulance indicated further deterioration of his condition and a decline of cardiac output.
“It was clear that we needed to get the fish out or this patient was not going to survive the short journey to Royal Bournemouth Hospital,” he said.
“I used a laryngoscope to fully extend the mouth and throat and saw what appeared like an altered colour of tissue in his throat.
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“Using a McGills forceps I was able to eventually dislodge the tip of the tail and very carefully, so as not to break the tail off I tried to remove it – although the fish’s barbs and gills were getting stuck on the way back up.
“I was acutely aware that I only had one attempt at getting this right as if I lost grip or a piece broke off and it slid further out of sight then there was nothing more that we could have done to retrieve the obstruction.”
Eventually after six attempts the fish came out in one piece and to our amazement it was a whole dover sole, measuring approximately 14cm in length.
Mr Harrison added: “I have never attended a more bizarre incident and don’t think I ever will – but we’re all so glad the patient has no lasting effects from his cardiac arrest, which could so easily have had such a tragic and devastating outcome.”