For the past two months, Chehalis resident Bonnie Jean Kay constantly felt a sharp pain in her stomach she had never experienced before and thought it must be an ulcer.
“The pain was under my right ribcage,” Kay said. “It’s like somebody took a stiletto and pierced it in me.”
Kay, 71, couldn’t take the discomfort anymore and went to Providence Centralia Hospital last week for a CAT scan, which revealed a 2-inch metal wire lodged in her liver.
Dr. Emery J. Chang, who performed emergency surgery on Kay last week to remove the wire, confirmed on Thursday that the metal wire was from a barbecue brush.
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Chang, a surgeon since 2000, said he has seen items such as pencils, razor blades and batteries inside people’s stomachs, but never a barbecue brush wire.
Kay, who is expected to make a full recovery, said she can’t think of a time when she would have ingested the thin wire.
“What really shocks me is that I even could ingest it,” Kay said. “A 2-inch wire is very sharp. I don’t see how it could get down my esophagus.”
People ingesting wire bristles from grill-cleaning brushes is becoming more common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC released a Morbidity and Mortality Report last summer that identified six cases of people digesting wires from grill-cleaning brush bristles in Rhode Island over a two-year period.
“This report, like an earlier report from the same hospital system, suggests that such incidents might be more common than previously suspected,” the report stated.
Just last week, while Kay was recovery from surgery, The Seattle Times reported a 16-year-old from Mountlake Terrace underwent an exploratory surgery that revealed a tiny piece of grill brush wire, about the size of a short strand of hair, stuck inside the teen’s small intestine.
Tristin Beck, a sophomore at Inglemoor High School, believes the ordeal started after a barbecue April 27. By May 1, Beck started feeling abdominal pain in the middle of the school day.
The CDC report concluded it is important for consumers, manufacturers, retailers and doctors to become more aware of the problem to help prevent future injuries.
Kay, a retired nurse, said she is researching other ways to clean her barbecue, including a spray to dissolve the grease or steel wool pads.
Kay said she is grateful to survive the incident that could have killed her, but she is still upset the accident will keep her from enjoying family activities this Mother’s Day weekend.
“I won’t be able to dig in the garden or pick up my grandchildren for a while,” Kay said. “It will be weeks before I can go back to normal.”