There are plenty of reasons why wireless earbuds can be kind of a pain. But we never considered that they could create a more literal kind of torment if you, like a guy from Worcester, Massachusetts named Bradford Gauthier, accidentally swallow one of the little bastards and end up with it lodged in your esophagus.
Gauthier, who lived to share his story of chowing down an AirPod, related his dread tale to The Guardian—perhaps to help others avoid the intimate listening experience he undertook. As he recalls, Gauthier had been shoveling snow late at night last February before turning in to watch The Thing on his phone before going to bed. He nodded off while it played and when he woke up later, he found one earbud but he couldn’t find the other. In retrospect, he thinks it was at this point that he might’ve swallowed the AirPod while yawning. Gauthier drank some water, noticed that his “throat filled with water, but it wouldn’t go down.” However, he was tired enough that he just went back to sleep.
In the morning, he noticed that one of his AirPods was gone. The location feature didn’t work because “the batteries were flat” but Gauthier wasn’t too worried—even after drinking water again and having more trouble swallowing. “I just thought my throat was unusually dry,” he remembers.
While trying to help find the missing earbud, Gauthier’s son joked that his dad must’ve swallowed it when he was sleeping. “We all laughed, but a couple of minutes later, after another mouthful of water came straight back up, we started to wonder if he might be on to something.” His wife encouraged him to get looked at. After his suspicion was met with “a bemused look” from a receptionist and an “incredulous” doctor, an X-ray revealed “a cartoon-clear image of my ribs and, parked between them at 45 degrees, the unmistakable shape of the missing AirPod.”
Because the human body is not meant to have a wireless listening device “wedged firmly” inside it, Gauthier’s wife took him to an endoscopy unit to avoid the possibility of the AirPod blocking an airway, getting stuck in his intestines, or, worst case scenario, rupturing inside of him. He was sedated, the earbud was removed via his mouth by “a tube with a lasso attachment.” The AirPod was then returned to him “in a neat little bag.”
Apple’s quality control team will be happy to know that the story ended with a happy ending beyond Gauthier not getting seriously ill or dying. As he states, the AirPod still “works fine, although the microphone is less reliable than it was.”
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