A bizarre barbecue mishap in sent a Texas woman to the hospital on Saturday, but what seemed like a freak accident that struck Karen Dunlap as she ate some of the most delicious barbecue chicken she ever had was, in fact, much more common than she or anyone might believe.
In fact, what happened to Dunlap represents such a hazard to summer grill enthusiasts that the Center For Disease Control And Prevention in Atlanta even published a report on this strange and frightening phenomenon.
Here’s what happened to Karen Dunlap: On Saturday, her husband did the grilling and applied his magic touch to barbecue chicken. Karen Dunlap said she, at first, was floored by how good it was — and then, the pain began.
“It was really the best grilled chicken he’d ever made, I was like wow! This is so good and I’m eating it and the third bite I bit down on something hard and I thought at first it was a charred piece of the chicken or something and as I swallowed it I realized no, this is not something I should be swallowing,” she said.
Dunlap knew she was in serious trouble.
“Probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever been through and it just progressively got worse. Every time I would swallow the pain would just radiate. It would radiate in my head too. It was really incredibly painful,” she recalled, speaking to a Houston TV station.
Her delicious barbecue dinner quickly turned into an agonizing and frightening trip to the emergency room. On Sunday, doctors performed endoscopic surgery on her throat and removed the problem.
It was a metal wire from a grill cleaning brush — the same brush she bought her husband for Christmas, and which he used to clean the grill before preparing that delectable, but deadly, barbecue chicken.
A single wire from the brush came loose, lodged in the grill, them worked its way into a piece of barbecue chicken, the same piece that Karen Dunlap dined upon.
If you think that was a freak accident, it’s not. Between August 2011 and June 2012, the CDC recorded six cases of patients who had to make emergency room visits due to ingesting metal bristles from grill-cleaning brushes that foudn their way into food prepared on the grill.
In three of those patients, the bristle lodged in the throat area. In the other three, the metal barbecue brush bristle made its way all the way to the patient’s intestines, causing excruciating abdominal pain.
“It is important to carefully inspect the grill surface for any remaining wire bristles that may have separated from the grill brush and could penetrate into the grilled food prior to grilling,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
But of course, there’s an easier solution. Don’t clean your barbecue grill with a metal brush.