Two days after eating said hamburger, Cheryl Harrison started having extremely bad stomach pains. She was immediately taken to Midstate Medical Center where they performed a CT. Sure enough, the CT showed she had swallowed a one-inch metal piece of a grill brush, which had probably gotten stuck to the grill when the brush was being used to clean it.
While many foreign objects that are swallowed pass through our body without much problem, this metal piece was sharp and just long enough to get stuck in Harrison's intestine and perforate it. Dr. Aziz Benbrahim explained why this sometimes happens to News 8. “In the case of some patients, when they arrive at the level of a small bowel, you have kind of a kink, a right angle, and it does not negotiate as well, and at that time it makes a hole in the intestine."
A hole in your intestine caused by such a perforation is serious business, and can even be life-threatening, according to Dr. Benbrahim. Foreign object retrieval is also not a rare emergency procedure for doctors to perform. Surgeons have even seen this specific type of foreign object in people's intestines before, and say that the metal bristles in your average grill cleaner are hazardous for this reason.
More: BBQ safety tips
Most people don't think of this as a remote possibility, and thus use these metal brushes to clean their grill before every barbecue. The problem is the bristles are so small, it's easy for them to go unseen on a dark grill, and even in a bite of food. Harrison told News 8, “Obviously, if it was in my mouth and I bit it, I wouldn’t have swallowed it. It must have been positioned in that burger just perfect, and I ingested it and swallowed it.”
Regardless of how it happened, Harrison was lucky. They caught the perforation early, contained the inflammation before it did any real damage, and two weeks later, she's recovering well. However, she's a cautionary tale now that we're heading into prime grilling and barbecue months. If you want to keep your grill clean by using a metal scrub brush, make sure you do a thorough sweep after brushing so that no one's burger or dog ends up with a wiry inclusion.
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