Tag Archives: nausea

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?

Purging a Secret

Part of a text conversation between me and Craig on Friday: 

Me:  I made a big mistake.

Craig: What happened?

Me:  I ate the expired yogurt.  Think I’m going to vomit.

Craig:  Oh, no.  How long ago did you eat it?

Me:  3 hrs

Craig:  Right on schedule.  Better to vomit.

Me:  No!

As I finished that last word, I was at the park with the dogs, bent over on one of the trails, mouth watering.  ‘It was only two days past the expiration date. You are not going to vomit.  You are not going to vomit.   Think about something else  This is not going to happen.’ 

The dogs were happy to stand around in the sunshine but I was quickly trying to get myself together before the elderly couple I had recently passed caught up with me, wondering why I was suddenly three shades of green and foaming at the mouth.  I took several deep breaths, stood, and started making my way back to the car.


See that date that I circled?  Turns out it’s not there to look pretty – it actually means something!


Your first question I am assuming would be, ‘Why on earth would you eat yogurt that was 4 days past the expiration date in the first place?’  That is a good question.  What can I say?  I grew up in a household where we frequently ate expired goods – especially canned goods.  My dad would assure me that, ‘if it ain’t bloated at the top, it’s perfectly fine.’  It’s a miracle I never ended up in the hospital with botulism.

Before I continue, let me just say (in order to regain some sense of dignity here) that don’t normally go around deeming a piece of stale bread Grade A Quality after picking off the fuzzy mold.  I am not crazy weird.  And, I might add – Greek yogurt is tart anyway.  Plus, it was only 6 days past the use-by date. 

….okay, it was nine – are you happy?  It had been expired for NINE days, but I swear I did not know that when I ate it.  I mean yes, I new that I was eating expired food but did not realize it was that far past until I got back home and dug through the trash to find the foil lid.  Please don’t be grossed out by me.

When Craig came home from work, the first thing he asked was, ‘Well?  Did you?”  No, I did not.  I could have – in fact, I came close several times but willed it back down. I am one of those people who will do anything to keep from vomiting. I’ve always been that way. I think it’s because I become afraid when I don’t have control over my body, and anyone who’s ever thrown up will tell you that it’s quite a sight; it kind of feels like I’m fighting an exorcism. 

Instead, I spent the entire day listening to my stomach churn, rumble and make all kinds of strange noises while I moaned from nausea.  It lasted until Saturday afternoon until, finally, I was able to eat some oatmeal. 

I’m feeling much better now, but am a little unsure as to whether I should be proud of myself or seek mental help.  I mean, on the one hand I think it’s pretty awesome realizing that I can will my body to push through even the most unpleasant of circumstances (I’ll have zero excuse of being too tired to hike that last mile).  On the other hand,  it is still disturbing me as to why I thought eating expired food was a better choice than simply throwing it away.  Maybe my long-gone father was speaking to me from beyond…

I’m so proud of you, Ellen. You didn’t need your stomach pumped and you saved a whole dollar!  Woo-Hoo!

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a bad experience with food poisoning.  There was the special date night Craig and I had many years ago that required several phone calls to Ask-a-Nurse before ending in a shared bottle of syrup of ipecac.  That story is for another time, however.  Come back later in the week as I dedicate Friday ‘National Purge and Hurl Day’ and share it with you.  Right now, my stomach just can’t take it. 

Question:  How strict are you with expiration dates?  Anyone else grow up in a frugal household (with a depression-era father as a double-whammy) and base your call of spoiled food on the ‘bloat-factor’? 


Wow.  My teachers were right.  I am special. 


Have a good week, everyone.  Watch those dates.