Grilling’s Hidden Danger // Ronit Lapid thought she was just sitting down to a meal with her son. She had no idea about the danger she was in.

By Ronit Lapid, as told to Riva Pomerantz

My story began more than innocently—it actually started off rather festively, as I sat down to a perfectly-grilled steak dinner together with my grown son. It was a rare treat for us to meet up on an ordinary Thursday evening, a chance to spend some quality time with each other, and I was enjoying every moment of it. Until I suddenly yelped and clutched at my throat.

“I swallowed a bone!” I gasped, as the pain—sharp as a needle—gripped me by surprise.
“There are no bones in steak,” my son tried to reassure me as he passed me some water. I tried eating and drinking to try to clear whatever was in my throat, but to no avail. Although my breathing was unaffected, the pain was very real and I couldn’t even figure out what had happened. I paced my living room, waiting for the episode to pass. How could a beautiful barbecue have gone so awry? Seeing his poor mother in such distress, my son very reasonably said, “Mom, maybe I should take you to the ER?”

Oy! No one likes to go to the ER—the wait, the shlep, it’s definitely no fun! But it was slowly sinking in that something was very wrong here, so I grabbed a sweater and we made our way to Staten Island University Hospital.

All that night, there were endless visits from specialists, countless exams, X-rays, and then a CAT scan, as I wondered what in the world could be wrong with me. On Friday morning, a gastric surgeon came in to my room in the ER, sat down and gave me a friendly smile.

“I hear you had a steak last night,” he said. “By any chance, did you grill it?”

“Yup!” I affirmed.

His next question blew me away.

“Okay, then. By any chance, did you clean the grill with a barbecue brush beforehand?”
“Yeeees,” I admitted, as a cold flash of horrified intuition hit.

“Well, that’s what’s in your throat,” he told me. “A metal bristle from the brush was left on the grill and became embedded in your steak. When you swallowed that bite, it implanted itself in your throat.” He shook his head ruefully. “That’s the reason I never use those brushes anymore. I’ve seen this happen way too often—more often than people realize.”

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