The last time I drank helium I ended up in the hospital. Were the two directly related? Probably not, but my mom seemed to think so.
The first time I can remember having serious chest pain was when I was a freshman in high school. When the morning after homecoming I woke up from a dream where I was drowning, only to find out that I really wasn’t breathing. My chest felt like it was being sat on by a six-ton elephant, holding a three-ton freight train, that happened to have a short and was sending electric currents through the elephant, to my chest and down my left arm. Needless to say, it sucked a lot.
I spent the night before slouching at my table refusing to dance. What else do you do when your mom makes you go to a dance you are determined to hate? But when we were getting ready to leave, we saw a few of the parent chaperons popping the balloons that decorated the entrance way. My sister, cousin and I saw this as a waste of perfectly good balloons and after being told we couldn’t have them by one parent, we decided to sneak them out anyway.
I don’t remember who actually grabbed them, but I remember running as fast as I could thinking all of the chaperons were going to come chasing after us. In reality, they probably just rolled their eyes, as they watched us crazily run for the door, high heels in hand, with a bunch of balloons bobbing after us.
We decided to suck the helium and go through drive thru’s and ask to throw things away. Because that’s what homeschoolers do when they are feeling devious. And since that was the only thing out of the ordinary I had done prior to my chest acting up, the balloons were blamed.
Because in the off-chance it really did make my chest react that bad, I didn’t want to end up in the hospital again. Now, eight or so years later, I watched the leftover balloons from cinco de mayo hug the pole they were tied to at work. They had just started deflating on their own which meant we would have to throw them away soon.
It was five minutes to close and not a soul in the store. So I decided to see once and for all if the balloons caused the extreme pain that sent me to the hospital. My chest was already acting up a little when I took the scissors and cut the tie off one balloon. After all these years of dealing with this chest pain, I was confident that if it did get bad enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, I would be able to drive myself. And if not, there is a fire station literally right up the street.
I took a deep calming breath before sucking in as much helium as my lungs could handle. Isabel was walking up from the back, so I leaned on the counter, wiggled my eyebrows and asked her how it was going in a squeaky chipmunk voice. My chest wasn’t in any more pain until the third balloon. Then it started hurting a little more. Not enough to send me to the hospital but enough to make it a little more than uncomfortable.
So, I think it is safe to say that drinking the helium does not actually cause the pain but will amplify it a little.