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Not like this. (A near death experience in Brooklyn).

Not like this. (A near death experience in Brooklyn).

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I nearly died from asphyxia in Brooklyn.

To be precise I OD’d on crunchy peanut butter.

But this was no anaphylactic shock. This was no peanut allergy. And I promise that there was nothing remotely auto-erotic about it either.

We, my daughters and I, had spent the day walking the streets of Manhattan. We were tired but exhilarated when we returned to our apartment in the relative peace and quiet of Brooklyn Heights.

We had about an hour before we went out again to eat. The girls were back on wifi and were hitting various social media platforms. I decided to hit a cold beer and a pre-dinner snack.

The apartment cupboards were pretty much bare because we were spending as little time there as possible, nice though it was. But we did have a jar of delicious peanut butter from the local Trader Joe’s.

(By the way, I mention the name of the store solely to add a little contextual detail and local colour to the story. I am in no way implying that the brush with death that followed had anything to do with the responsible retailer that responsibly sold me the responsible item.)

I cracked open a bottle of Brooklyn East India Pale Ale (colour and context again, the beer was not an accessory), quaffed lustily and took down the peanut butter jar from the cupboard. I was alone in the kitchen.

I know it’s unhygienic and the girls always tell me off if they catch me in the act, but eating peanut butter from the jar with a teaspoon is one of my guilty pleasures.

But in this instance my guilty pleasure almost turned to deadly sin.

Gluttony to be precise.

I was hungry and the first swig of beer brought on the munchies. You burn a lot of calories during a day of walking in NYC.

In an act of wanton indulgence I scooped two heaped spoonfuls of peanut butter into my mouth and swallowed without chewing.

Given what happened next it could be argued that this was a big mistake. However I believe that it was my failure to inhale before attempting to ingest that was the real problem.

The peanut butter formed a cloying, adhesive bolus that wedged itself in my throat at the base of my tongue. It created a perfect, airtight seal.

The sensation was most uncomfortable, but no more than that at first. I assumed that some exaggerated swallowing would soon shift it. But it didn’t. It wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry.

After several abortive attempts, discomfort turned to mild alarm. I started to make convulsive swallowing movements, my neck and tongue straining with the effort, but to no avail.

If strenuous swallowing wasn’t going to do the trick it would have to be air that shifted it. But I had barely any gas in my lungs so blowing the pasty lump back up whence it came was not an option.

I was starting to get really worried at this point. I was pacing around the kitchen in an agitated state as I tried various approaches in rapid succession. I would have to try to inhale through the buttery plug. Hopefully it was not of uniform thickness and if I created enough of a vacuum below, it would give way and create some sort of opening at its weakest point.

Remember that I was not actually choking. The peanut butter had stopped short of both my oesophagus and my windpipe. The risk with the intense inhalation approach was that I would dislodge a piece of butter, send it down the wrong way, and add choking to my list of woes. But at this point choking felt infinitely preferable to asphyxiation.

It is difficult to be objective and accurate after the event about how much time had elapsed since the peanut butter seal had formed. I do know that I was now panicking. I can comfortably hold my breath for more than a minute, maybe even two, if I am still and relaxed. But I had no breath to hold and there had already been a fair amount of vain exertion. I was acutely aware of the increasing oxygen debt and my body’s intense, distressed reaction to it.

I was trying to inhale as strongly as I possibly could but no air would pass through the peanut plug. At this point I stumbled into the hall and the disturbing, throttled wheezing noises that I was making drew my daughters out of their rooms.

They could evidently see the genuine alarm on my face because I could see it mirrored on theirs.

I must have been using every muscle in my upper torso to varying desperate degrees to force some air, somehow, into my lungs. Death felt like a very real possibility at this point. I remember thinking, “Not like this. Not now. Not here.” I worried for the girls. A bizarre, short-term worry about how they would get home, rather than how they would cope without their father. My life didn’t flash before me but the logistics of their repatriation did.

The girls were borderline hysterical at this point, “Dad, dad, oh my God, dad!”

Finally, THANK FUCK, my efforts paid off. I had created the peanut butter equivalent of metal fatigue and what felt like a tiny hole opened up. The air made an awful screeching sound as I gratefully, greedily sucked it through. Now that the seal was broken, the plug rapidly collapsed in on itself. I swallowed it down, and the crisis was over. My chest heaved for while as if after exercise but it was done.

Everyone calmed down remarkably quickly.

Dad nearly died.

But he didn’t.

Let’s go get something to eat.


  1. Loki Monahan

    HOLY FUCKING SHITBALLS BATMAN!!! I had a similar experience with Alfies Pizza’s “Ultra cheese” pizza!!! I was a little bit drunk and stoned when I ordered my food, they were super slow that day so by the time I received my food it felt like i had been there for weeks.. lol and when I got it I ferociously tore off a piece and chomped down some. At that moment the feeling of chocking didn’t accrue right away, it was only when I reached for my soda to wash down the over peppered beast that I realized a fat glob of cheese and dough lodged itself in my throat. Now here’s where things got tricky, I didn’t want to be “that guy” and decided to walk my happy ass to the restrooms… once I got inside the lack of oxygen got to me, I became dizzy and fatigued so I rushed into a stall, pushing some 16 year old kid out of my way (He said dude you okay man? lol) got inside the stall and tried making myself cough it out.. didn’t work. Things got heavier at this point as I felt like I was on the brink of losing consciousness, shit was getting real. Then I had some kind of flash back moment, remembering my Grandmother’s koi fish she named “Benny” swallowing a match tip, don’t ask me how I genuinely do not remember because I was young but the reality of the situation was shocking because my Grandmother went to the extent of using a paperclip to pry it out of the fishes throat, saving it’s life. At this moment I knew what I had to do, so I reached down my own throat to grab the cheese, this took me a few hellish moments because I couldn’t grab enough but eventually I got it and pulled it out.. I was blown away to see a foot long, very thick strand of cheese in my hand. The “Not like this!!” feeling you described, I also felt buddy. WHEW!!

  2. Travis

    This happened to me last week eating peanut butter bread for a midnight snack. Fortunately for me, I had air in my lungs and was able to make a hole in the plug by screaming out full force to my wife. Most horrific near death experience I’ve faced.

  3. Julie Wander

    This just happen to me. I was eating peanut butter with a spoon and a small cracker. All of a sudden it got stuck in my throat I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what to do because I was alone. I’m too short to use chairs to do the heimlich on myself. I didn’t think it would work with peanut butter anyways because it’s sticky. I was almost ready to pass out then I thought I would try and grab the piece of cracker that was stuck with peanut butter around it. I couldn’t grab the little piece of cracker. So I stuck my fingers in my throat until I could throw up. Everything came gushing out. How embarrassing to die by peanut butter!! To have family see me that way dead so embarrassing!! Thank God I could breathe again.

  4. Jane Patterson

    Me. too. yesterday. We (my husband and I) are still shaken. I was eating a corncake with peanut butter, and my dog kept wanting more of it (which he was getting), so I finally stuffed the rest of it into my mouth just so I could get some.

    My trachea was completely blocked. I tried to get the peanut butter out and couldn’t. Started to turn grey and feeling faint so I went to find my husband, my dog following worriedly. He says what followed was the worst moment of his life, a combination of terror and impotence. My face was blue and my lips purple by now, and I was barely able to stand. He tried the Heimlich maneuver (PB too sticky) and pounding on my back–I couldn’t speak of course, so he had no idea what I was choking on. We were leaning over the sink and in desperation, he said “try drinking some water.”

    I drank a little, and a small hole opened up in the peanut butter block. Encouraged, I drank more, and finally was able to breathe.

    I think I was without oxygen for over two minutes, and not far from unconsciousness. My thought was: “Is this the way it ends?” Ugh. We’re both trying to get over a really bad experience…

  5. Mariah

    This happened to my mom not to long ago. Thats what brought me to this post. Very very unfortunately, she could not dislodge her obstruction and she did pass away from this one, stupid spoonful of peanutbutter. ITS NOT FREAKING WORTH IT! Please, please please please stop this horrifying practice of PB by the spoon.

  6. Iwona

    I had exactly the same today so it’s why I am searching if somebody had the same shocking experience..But I was on my own and just before collapse on the floor with no air for one minute I managed to spit it…cough up…uff never again bug spoon and bread ..guys…I was sure It’s my end…..but I got second chance..I feel strange

  7. Vanessa

    Yep, almost asphixiated on a spoon of peanut butter today. Saved myself with sips of water. And then scraped the second loaded spoonful back into the jar. I won’t be eating peanut butter like that again anytime soon.

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