Heave Ho: My Syrup of Ipecac Story

“You mean you’ve been blogging for over two years and you’ve never shared the Chicken Story?” asks my husband, in disbelief.  Someone please tell me, when is it appropriate to write a good vomit story?  “Anytime is a good time!” laughs Craig.  My view is this: there are stories that deserve to be shared in their own due time.  Since Monday’s post happened to be about nausea, I guess now is as good a time as any.  Frankly, I think Craig wanted to read a good gross-out story that he happened to be involved in.  Well, dear – you’re getting your wish.

A word of warning: you may not want to read this post, if:

a) …you are currently eating.

b) …you have a sensitive stomach.

 

It was sometime during the winter of 2002:

Craig called me from work saying that he had a craving for the one dish I cooked very well:  Chicken Tarragon.  I already had all the ingredients I needed so I agreed to make it for dinner that night.  Before leaving to run a few errands I pulled a package of frozen chicken out of the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw. When Craig arrived home from work that night, neither one of us felt like cooking so we decided to go out for dinner instead.  We both completely forgot about the chicken on the counter.

The next evening I arrived home early from work and decided to make the chicken dish.  I gathered the chicken broth and tarragon from the cupboard, a small carton of whipping cream and a package of raw chicken from the refrigerator. While the chicken was frying, I started on the cream sauce.

As Craig arrived home that night, I was placing the last of the food onto the table – a bowl of green beans.  We sat down and shared a nice meal together.  As I sopped up the last of the sauce with my garlic bread I casually asked, ‘What did you end up doing with the raw chicken from yesterday?’  Craig wiped his mouth with his napkin, sat back and said, ‘I put it back in the refrigerator.’

Um…what’s that, now?

I stared at him, trying to process what I’d just heard.  He casually got up and started clearing our plates. In a panic I grabbed his arm to stop him.  With my voice a couple of octaves higher, I said, ‘Craig – that’s the chicken we just ate!’  He slowly turned to meet my gaze.

Right about then things quickly started to unravel.  I remember feelings of hysteria; disbelief; confusion.  I believe I said something like, ‘WHY on earth….’ and, ‘Are you crazy??!’ which were quickly followed with words like ER, stomach pump and salmonella poisoning.

This quickly turned into the blame game – both of us pointing fault at each other as we started, literally, freaking out. I yelled, ‘Why, WHY WOULD YOU PUT RAW POULTRY BACK IN THE REFRIGERATOR WHEN YOU KNEW IT HAD BEEN OUT ALL NIGHT?  WHY DIDN’T YOU THROW IT AWAY?’  to which he yelled back (in Man Logic): ‘I put it in the refrigerator because I didn’t want it to stink up the kitchen!’ 

I want you to imagine the look on my face at that exact moment.  I could not duplicate it if I tried, but it must have looked something like this:

Thank you, Kristin Wiig

 

‘Anyway.’ he continued, ‘That’s irrelevant right now – we have to go throw up!’ and he started running toward the bathroom.  I chased after him, and said, ‘But, I can’t stick my finger down my throat!  I just can’t do it!’

Okay, okay. I’ll go to Walgreens down the street and pick up some syrup of ipecac,’ he said. ‘We’ll drink that, throw up, and then it will be over.  All right?”

‘Okay,’  I said, as he grabbed his coat.

I paced the floor for ten minutes until Craig burst through the door, handing me a small plastic bag.

‘I raced around the store looking for the syrup of ipecac,’ he gasped.  ‘When I found it, I rushed up to the counter to pay, and when the cashier gave me my receipt he told me to have a ‘nice evening’.  I just looked at him and then down at the package, thinking – you obviously don’t pay any attention to what your customers are buying!’

I took the bottle out of the bag and read the directions.  There were exactly two doses – one for each of us.   Craig took his first.  I followed.  Then we sat on the couch in silence.

Within 10 minutes, Craig’s mouth began to water.  The next thing I knew, he was running for the bathroom.  The things I heard coming from that room I will never forget.  I sat frozen on the couch, knowing that whatever evil was being expelled from his body was soon coming for me.

A few minutes passed and Craig came out of the bathroom and I looked to him for guidance.  ‘I think….I think I’m done.  It really wasn’t as bad as it sounded.  You’ll be…’

That was the last word I heard because I bolted to the bathroom.  I shut the door, locked it and got down on my knees, head over the toilet bowl.  I think I purged everything but my spleen in those few moments.  Just as I was easing back onto the floor, I heard banging on the bathroom door.

‘Let me IN!  WHY is the door locked?  Open the DOOR!  I scrambled to turn the lock as Craig flung open the door and shoved his head into the toilet, heaving like a madman.

We took turns at the toilet bowl for nearly three hours before Craig, looking green in the face and clearly beaten, decided to take a shower.  ‘Maybe it will make me feel better,’ he said.  I remained close to the porcelain god all crumpled into a ball, thinking about how good it felt to have the cold tile against my sweaty forehead.  Twenty minutes must have passed before I heard sounds of splashing coming from the shower.  I crawled over to check on Craig; when I peered behind the curtain, I saw him silently heaving while trying to force green beans down the shower drain with his foot.  This, of course, caused me to rush right back to the toilet.

Finally, I decided to call Ask-a-Nurse.  I told her about the chicken on the counter before she interrupted, ‘Well, I would strongly advise that you don’t eat it!’  I clarified that we’d already eaten it and could not stop vomiting.  The nurse explained that when you use syrup of ipecac, you’ll continue to vomit until the stomach is completely void of contents.  Had I known this, Craig and I wouldn’t have been nursing our stomachs with sips of water and tea between episodes.  I hung up the phone and joined him on the bed, neither of us drinking, talking, moving.  Finally, things started quieting down.  We were able to fall asleep around midnight – more than 4 hours after he left for Walgreens.

We awoke looking pretty wrecked the next day and barely made it to work.  Craig called me mid-morning to ask how I was feeling.  As it turned out I was faring better than he, as he spent the majority of his day with major stomach cramps, running from toilet to toilet all over the city.  By the time we both arrived home from work that night, the worst had passed – figuratively and literally.

What you’ve just read is a perfect example of what NOT to do if you ever question anything you’ve eaten.  Did you know that syrup of ipecac is no longer recommended for any kind of poisoning?  It has been discontinued and taken off the market. Not that we’d ever, EVER use that stuff again.  Seriously, if accidental poisoning occurs, you should immediately call your local poison control center or go to the ER.

Craig and I find this story pretty funny now.  Like many things in life, there are plenty of questions that we’ll never have the answers to – like, why I felt the need to lock the bathroom door before throwing up; why Craig didn’t just take the chicken out to the trash.

But the biggest question of all is this:  had we not done anything, would we have become ill?  To this day I think yes, absolutely.  The chicken had been sitting out for nearly 24 hours.  Craig on the other hand, is not so sure.  He thinks that because it was unthawing part of that time, it probably wasn’t out long enough to spoil.  What do you think?

34 thoughts on “Heave Ho: My Syrup of Ipecac Story

  1. munchberry

    A) I boldly ate my broccoli carrot puree soup while reading the post. I only paused at the greenbean vomit being pushed down the drain.

    B) You had considerable restraint not spilling this story to me when I dangled my own ipecac story in front of you. Your strength!

    C) My hubs will put anything resembling food back into the fridge no matter how luke warm. AND he USED TO put bait balls and old ballyhoo baits from a day long boat trip in 90 degrees in the upstairs freezer and fridge. I would say “Huh,what is that?”, open it and nearly keel over from the stench. Of course I would bellow in horror. Of course he would ignore that. Such is the one-sided dramatic exchange at Casa Munchberry.

    D) Ipecac is not for sissies.

    E) I am impressed that you got Craig to go get the Ipecac. And laud your willingness to share the toilet when you were probably out of your mind.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      You my dear, are a trooper. I could just see you, ‘daring’ this story to be too gross. I already know you have grosser ;)
      And you’re right. I came -this-close to spilling my ipecac story, but that would have taken the fun out of it!

      Reply
      1. munchberry

        Nope not grosser. You get that prize – or Craig does. I was a little dismayed that the carrots and broccoli in the soup were vomit chunky.

        I am gonna have to press you harder to spill it next time. Oh and a weird aside – There was a news story where a person at a Paul Rudd show vomited over the balcony and onto the heads and laps of patrons below. News broke the VERY day your story broke. Coincidence? I think not.

        Hugolympics.

        Reply
  2. Val

    Heh heh… Great story!

    But here’s my confession: I know I could never be bulimic. Years ago, when I did suffer from episodes of binging – on a couple of miserable occasions I subjected myself to Ipecac.
    Never again! Never, NEVER again!

    (Also in all honesty, that chicken was probably alright – esp if it was well-cooked)

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I have wondered about that chicken for 10 years, Val. And, I’m sorry that you had your own experience with ipecac. I’m sure it’s a doozy!

      Reply
  3. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    Okay, now that I’m through laughing (with you, not at you), I’ll share that the one time I had to use Ipecac, I vomited so hard I burst a bunch of tiny blood vessels on my eyelids. I looked like a racoon. A racoon with a really sore stomach.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Ellen! (And for reminding me that my chicken has been thawing on the counter for an hour now–time for the fridge!)

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Oh, no – I fully expect you to laugh ‘at’ me, Cammy. It was really a sight to behold. And, omg – blood vessels? We need to start the ISC: Ipecac Survivors Club.

      Reply
  4. Lisa

    My vote is that the chicken was ok. If it were bad, you would have noticed it in the taste since it sat out all day and night and since you probably cooked it very well. Boy am I glad I never used Ipecac! Thanks for sharing exactly how it works.
    After your post the other day I used out of date cottage cheese (smell and taste tested fine by me) to make dinner. We all ate it with no stomach issues.
    Can you imagine living in Colonial times, or even just 100 years ago? I bet very few items were thrown away back then due to spoilage, but I also have a feeling there were many more stomach ailments related to eating spoiled food.

    Reply
    1. NewMe

      I told my husband your story. He too thinks that the chicken was probably fine–not that he’d intentionally leave chicken on the counter and then put it back in the fridge. And he’s absolutely fanatical about avoiding cross-contamination. The minute raw meat touches anything, he practically puts a neon sign up saying “DON’T TOUCH!!! CLEAN IMMEDIATELY!!! DANGER!!!.

      Of course, I also thought of your story yesterday morning when we took a sealed gallon jug of maple syrup up from the basement to start using. Then we noticed that it said “refrigerate or freeze” on the label. We had done neither and the jug had been downstairs for many months.

      We gingerly tasted the syrup and decided that although it didn’t taste bad, and the jug had been sealed, we were going to throw it all away (sniff, sniff). But the kitchen sink had some dishes in it and the dishwasher hadn’t been emptied, so we just left it on the counter.

      When son #1 came down for breakfast, we told him to ignore the maple syrup and put brown sugar on his porridge. Son #2 came down about an hour later. By that time, no one was still in the kitchen. He helped himself to a bowl of porridge and poured on the maple syrup and ate his breakfast.

      We played it low-key, mentioned that we did not intend to keep that syrup and left it at that (after pouring the syrup down the drain).

      Twenty-four hours later, son #2 is fine, having never felt sick at all.

      Reply
      1. Lynn Burke

        Real maple syrup only needs refrigeration after opening. I’ve had real maple syrup in the cupboard for years before opening. Glad your son didn’t get ill! As for chicken thawing on the counter. I assume it was still in its sealed packaging. well I certainly wouldn’t recommend leaving your chicken out to thaw for 24 hours or so, I think they would’ve been okay with cooking thoroughly I really think they would have been fine had They not taken the medication. So appreciate this story though!

        Reply
  5. Caron

    As we say in the South, “Bless your heart. and goodness, gracious.” I’m glad I never resorted to taking that stuff. The cure worse than the problem?

    Yeah, the green beans was the low point. The rest wasn’t gag inducing.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Yes, the cure was WAY worse than the problem. Especially since discovering that my chicken might have been all right to eat, anyway.
      My husband laughed at your comment about the ‘low point’. I think I could see a hint of pride in his face, Caron. The weirdo. lol

      Reply
  6. Lisa

    I’d say the chicken was probably fine. If you’ve ever opened a package of bad chicken you will know immediately, and eating it would be the last thing you would do. It’s really one of those awful smells you can’t forget… kind of like a garbage dump. I think salmonella would make you puke all by itself… food poisoning is awful!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      The thought of the chicken being all right and us going through all of that for nothing, I think is the funniest part of this whole story. Well – 10 years later, it is. ;)

      Reply
  7. Vickie

    Was sitting in a waiting room THIS MORNING reading an article on never using Ipecac. Small world. Most excellent story.

    My husband has an iron stomach. His mother did not believe in soap. Not in the kitchen. not in the bathroom. She also thought the raw meat things were an exaggeration. I have seen her cut up a raw chicken and then make a salad on the same board with the same knife, no washing between jobs. No, I did not eat at her house. My children never ate at her house.

    She was an equal opportunity non-believer. Thought smoke detectors and car seats and safety belts were all unnecessary too.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      How uncanny is THAT?! I think we must have read the same article because I was unaware of the fact that people aren’t supposed to use it anymore.
      I find it nearly impossible that someone would not worry about cross-contamination. Good plan on not eating anything from there. Holy Moly!

      Reply
  8. LauraJayne

    Wow. This was the best story I’ve read all day. I can’t believe you took ipecac! It makes me scared just thinking about it. I have no idea if it was safe or not, but I definitely would have hoped that however I cooked it killed anything bad! I definitely wouldn’t have tried to throw it up – but maybe that’s because I never worry about stuff like that! I’m sure I’ll learn that lesson the hard way, though, and become super vigilant!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Once, ipecac. Never, ever again. Would rather spend 5 hours at the ER. Seriously. No worries for you though, Laura. You are WAY smarter than I was! lol

      Reply
  9. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    Reading this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but man I can’t imagine how it was for you! I have to say that I’ve left chicken out to thaw and used it and have never gotten sick from it. Of course, I smell it first, cook it well, and if it tasted the slightest bit “off” I wouldn’t eat it.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Karen – you are amazing. I applaud you, seriously. If someone warned me that I was about to read a post that had spider-talk, I’d have skipped it, hands down. I feel honored that you read it :)

      Reply
  10. didi

    Hmmm, my guess is that the chicken was probably fine unless your home was unreasonable warm and humid at the time. Frozen chicken will stay pretty cool for a while, and things only get icky when the meat has been at room temp for a couple of days. The smell of the chicken if it had been spoiled probably would have turned your nose, and you’d have thrown it out before cooking it.
    Still, now that it is over and done with you have the funny story to tell, right?

    Reply
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  12. Leah

    Believe it or not, I found this post by googling “Where can I buy Ipecac syrup” because I had decided it would be better to just get it over with than to sit around feeling nauseated. I am SO glad I found it! Your experience was DEFINITELY worse than just feeling sick. Thanks for saving me the trouble of finding out the hard way! (And for the laugh – I needed it!)

    Reply
  13. Vicki

    If you’ve never had a case of really bad salmonella, I’ll enlighten you, as I’ve managed to have it several times. It’s what you described, but for several days. The associated symptoms being explosive diahrrea while vomiting and the worst nausea you will ever experience.

    Reply
  14. kimberly

    Cooking spoiled meat will kill the bacteria, but it doesn’t get rid of the toxins they’ve already produced. Toxinosis is pathogenesis caused by the bacterial toxin alone, not necessarily involving bacterial infection. I also can’t imagine what parasites a person could contract from cutting salad ingredients on the same board they cut raw meat on, without washing it first!!!

    Reply
  15. kimberly

    Its hard to say if you would have gotten sick or not – I’ve seen people get sick from eating things less scary than old chicken.

    Reply
  16. Jeff Mehlhorn

    I think my cousin had to give me 10mL of syrup of ipecac when I was about 4 years old. I don’t know exactly why, but my theory is that I might have been accidentally overdosed on medication for an ear infection at the time. The reason I think the yellowish-clear syrup I was given was ipecac is that they gave it to me frantically, and promptly pulled up the garbage can after I had swallowed the syrup, which tasted as if it had alcohol in it, except it was sugary. My cousin (who administered the ipecac) said “TRY to throw up!”. I was so puzzled by that for about 15 minutes until I dry heaved and passed out in a cold sweat. I never threw up any liquids and/or solids because even though they gave me the ipecac, I had hardly anything in my stomach to throw up… BTW: Ipecac (if given with liquids or on a full stomach) will cause vomiting in 90% of the population, but very little, if ANY nausea precedes the vomiting. Your stomach just feels sore, not sick.

    Reply

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