My husband and I were stationed in Japan. It was 4:00 PM, and I had just boarded the first of a series of trains to downtown Tokyo. I looked at the map, and its list of train transfers the teachers had drawn for me at the Japanese high school where I taught English. They were as excited as I about attending a special Self-Defense Force Reception hosted by the Prime Minister of Japan. As the train pulled away from the station, I felt awkward in all my finery.
In Japan, travel is measured in time it is so crowded. Since ‘d made all the trains on time I arrived at the hotel early and upon entering the ballroom where the party would be held I saw numerous Japanese staff busy with last minute preparations. Usually, there are escorts to greet the guests and then you are taken from table to table for your checklist and name badge. I was just deciding what to do when I saw a small empty room and went in to sit down.
Soon, the room began to fill with very distinguished looking Japanese. An older man sat next to me and asked if I was part of the Government’s Cabinet. Realizing I was in the wrong place, I got up to leave. Very cordially he insisted that I stay, asking who I was and what I did. We had a lovely conversation.
My husband arrived, and as we entered the main reception room, there must have been 500 guests. After going through the reception line and some socializing, I left my husband and went to the buffet tables. After indulging on lobster, shrimp and a variety of Japanese foods I decided to try a fish dish.
All of a sudden I felt my throat closing! I thought I should drink something and took a soda from a passing server. That was the wrong thing to do since the effervescence just bubbled out of my closing throat. I managed to reach my husband and just grasped his arm as I started to pass out. Next I realized I was in the other room surrounded by concerned Japanese Generals and Admirals. I felt like a rope was around my chest being pulled tighter and tighter. I started vomiting. Someone was taking my pulse and saying, “Breathe, you must breathe.” I thought I was going to die.
I kept feeling my throat close up, and the pain around my chest was unbearable. Then all of a sudden the man who sat next to me earlier appeared. It turned out that he was the Surgeon General of Japan. He ordered an ambulance. When it arrived, he got in with my husband and me. In Japan the only job of the ambulance service is to transport. They administer no treatment. Also, a hospital has to accept you first before the ambulance can take you there.
I was first seen in the ER of a big Tokyo Hospital and diagnosed with a heart attack. I was then transferred to the main Japanese military hospital. The Surgeon General stayed with me throughout this whole ordeal and later called to see if I was okay. Somehow I survived this catastrophe with only a hiatal hernia from straining so hard to breathe. I had an anaphylactic reaction to the fish.
Call it fate, divine intervention, or luck that I arrived early and sat with the Surgeon General. Had it not been for his “power of one” intervention, I would probably not be alive today.
Toni Davidson, RN
6 Annex, Riverside Regional Medical Center
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