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Mother’s Day BBQ ruined after Montreal-area woman swallows metal brush bristle

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Lisa Spour had every intention of enjoying her Mother’s Day.

The weather was beautiful and sunny, and her son Mitch and his wife had invited her over for a barbecue at their home in Kirkland, in Montreal’s West Island. It had all the makings of a lovely afternoon with family.

Spour was on the last bites of her burger when she realized something was wrong.

Something was stuck in her throat.

“At first I thought it was maybe that I didn’t chew my food properly, and it was just stuck,” she told CBC’s Daybreak. “I kind of remained calm and put my fork down and thought, ‘It’s going to go. It’s going to pass.'”

But it wasn’t food, and it didn’t pass. A metal bristle from her son’s barbecue brush had found its way into her burger — and now, it was firmly lodged in Spour’s throat.

This is the bristle from the brush that was lodged in Lisa Spour’s throat. (Submitted by Lisa Spour)

“It was a very sharp pain, like I was being cut,” she explained. “Basically, that’s what was happening.” The tiny metal wire was getting lodged into the esophagus wall.

It would take two hospitals, three tests, a team of medical professionals and one invasive surgery to get that wire out.

“We didn’t want to panic right away. But I could tell my mom was in a lot of pain,” said Mitch Spour.

At the Lakeshore hospital, X-rays showed nothing, and a scope shed no light, either. The bristle was barely a centimetre long and thin as a hair, making it extremely difficult to spot.

Finally, it showed up on a CT scan. But the Lakeshore wasn’t equipped to dislodge it and began preparing to transfer Lisa Spour to the Montreal General Hospital.

“When we were loading my mom into the ambulance … that’s when it kind of went from a casual visit to ER to, ‘OK, this is serious,'” Mitch Spour said.

Spour woke up from anesthesia sometime later, left only with a sore throat. 

Not so unusual

It’s something Dr. Nader Sadeghi, the chief of the department of otolaryngology at the McGill University Health Centre, has seen before.

While caught barbecue brush bristles are uncommon, he said, people often get other small, sharp objects, such as fish bones, lodged in their throats.

Lisa Spour and her son Mitch were relieved a surgeon was able to remove the tiny wire lodged in her esophagus. (Laura Marchand/CBC)

“Being a sharp object, obviously, if the piece goes down, the possibility of getting stuck down there is pretty high,” Sadeghi said. “It can become a serious medical problem if it penetrates … because obviously it can cause infection and additional trauma in trying to get it out.”

Sadeghi said that if you know something is stuck in your throat, you should consult a doctor, just to be safe.

“There’s just no way of figuring out whether the persistent discomfort and pain every time a person swallows is just a scratch or if the object is there,” he said.

Metal brushes still available

Lisa Spour said she switched to a wooden barbecue brush two summers ago, after hearing stories about the dangers associated with metal brushes, but she never dreamed she’d be a victim of a tiny, lost bristle.

Her son Mitch now says he wished he’d listened when his mother encouraged him to throw his brush away.

“Now the brush is in the garbage. Tossed it out,” he said. “I’ve put a little picture up on Facebook giving a warning that, yes, this can happen close to home. It’s not an old wives’ tale, as they say.”

Lisa Spour said she had already replaced her own metal bristle brush with a wooden one. Now her son Mitch has, too. (CBC)

He added that despite the risks they carry, these kinds of metal brushes are still widely available.

“You see them at every check-out counter, every Canadian Tire, Home Depot, all that sort of thing.” 

As for their relationship, mother and son say there are no hard feelings.

“I’m going to remember that for many, many Mother’s Days to come,” said Mitch Spour.

Lisa Spour and her son Mitch recount how Lisa had to undergo emergency surgery after a bristle from her son’s barbecue brush lodged in her throat at her Mother’s Day lunch. Dr. Nader Sadeghi, MUHC otolaryngology chief, explains how common these injuries are. 10:54

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