In a powerful Facebook post Wednesday (July 7), Sarah Silverman veered from her typical funnybone-tickling observations and instead told a harrowing tale: She spent last week in an Intensive Care Unit.
“I am insanely lucky to be alive,” she writes.
Until last week, the 45-year-old comedian/actress had never heard of epiglottitis — and there’s a good chance you haven’t either. Below, a primer on the dangerous throat condition that nearly took her life.
“This is me telling everyone in my life at once why I haven’t been around,” she begins her post. “I was in the ICU all of last week and I am insanely lucky to be alive. Don’t even know why I went to the doctor, it was just a sore throat. But I had a freak case of epiglottitis.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, epiglottitis occurs when the tiny cartilage “lid” that covers your windpipe swells, blocking air flow into your lungs. It is typically the result of burns from hot liquids, throat injuries or other such occurrences. In Silverman’s case, it required emergency surgery.
“They couldn’t put me fully to sleep for the recovery process because my blood pressure’s too low. I was drugged just enough to not feel the pain and have no idea what was happening or where I was. They had to have my hands restrained to keep me from pulling out my breathing tube,” Silverman explains, saying she was asleep for five days.
The reason why you likely haven’t heard of epiglottitis is because routine Hib vaccinations for infants have made it extremely rare. But prompt treatment could prevent a life-threatening situation, so if you find yourself with a “sore throat” feeling like Silverman had, do not simply dismiss it.
Of course, this being Sarah Silverman, even such a dark moment in her life brought smiles.
“When I first woke up and the breathing tube came out, I still couldn’t talk and they gave me a board of letters to communicate. My loved ones stood there, so curious what was going to be the first thing I had to say,” she recalls. “They followed my finger, rapt, as I pointed from letter to letter until I finally spelled out, ‘Did you see “Hello My Name is Doris”.'”