Dead Air

He was certain I was dead. I was still, and lifeless.

Some lessons are best learned firsthand. I believe some of the greatest lessons are learned second.

I have mentioned—in previous posts—that I used to dance ballet, and that my mother was my instructor, and had her own school. What I have not mentioned before is that there were many years where I would have to play a supporting role: Sitting.

Yes, sitting. I would sit in the balcony of the theater. I would sit by the VCR and video camera. I would sit there, watching the stuff, waiting… Waiting for whatever everyone else was doing to get done. I was a small child. Old enough to be left alone in the seats, but not enough to help backstage, on stage, with the stage, or with anything else to do with the stage or productions. I also was not old enough to be left alone at home. So, I sat. As the ballets would near performing times, my father would come up and sit by me as he ran the recording equipment, while I sat—some more.

There were a few years when there were concessions. A soda machine was rented, and a few treats were sold, but, the one year I recall really being blown away by was the year we had balloons.

We were selling balloons! And, to make it all better, we were filling them up, on-site, so they were fresh! Look, fresh balloons are a must. You need all the float-time you can get. This also meant a helium tank…

This particular year, I was deemed old enough to help with the concession stand (insert childish squeal of delight, here!). I was super stoked. Finally, I wasn’t going to just be sitting for hours and hours and hours in the balcony. I would be sitting for hours and hours and hours at the concession stand (joy…). Still, it was a change of scenery (that’s a theater joke, people). So, instead of staring at the stage, or my father’s back while he recorded the show, I could stare at the open space where people weren’t—because they all were seated in the theater watching the performance. I had not thought the whole thing through, very well.

Worst still, I was not old enough—or trusted enough— to run the stand by myself. My older brother was there to do that. I just got to sit. It wasn’t, however, always that way. No, in the beginning, I was trusted to help inflate and tie the balloons to strings, then to the cart—until they kept slipping out of my hands during inflation and before getting tied off (honest accidents). Then, when tying them to the cart, I was knotting them—so they wouldn’t float away! That thoughtfulness was not appreciated very much. All I had left was tying the strings onto the balloons—until the first three slipped out of my small hands and drifted to the freedom of the three-story domed ceiling. Oops…

Fortunately, my brother was willing to have some fun—when nobody was looking. We would fill a balloon just a little bit, and then suck in the helium—so we could talk all funny like. We were having a ball. Until it went too far.

‘Inhaling helium from a balloon isn’t likely to cause major health issues or kill you, but it’s not impossible. There have been news reports of some folks, particularly young children, dying from asphyxiation after inhaling helium from a balloon.’ Also… ‘…the helium can also enter your lungs with enough force to cause your lungs to rupture.’ Fun facts from And here, at Science Bob, I found this little snippet: ‘The lack of oxygen that comes from breathing in helium can cause fainting or even asphyxiation and death.’ However, first, I found this dramatic reading: ‘Inhaled gases will displace oxygen from the lungs and body. If enough is inhaled a person will pass out as the brain is deprived of oxygen. This can happen in seconds, without warning. If normal breathing is not resumed quickly and oxygen replenished, brain damage and death through asphyxiation will occur.’ As well as: ‘Gases inhaled from a compressed/pressurised container can rupture the lungs as the gas rapidly expands or cause bubbles to form in the blood, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.’ found at

Kill joys…

seriously though, heed their warnings!

I both saw and felt the wall. It was a large brick wall, that rushed at me, out of nowhere. It was about 20 feet long, six feet tall, and solid. It slide right up to my feet, knocked me down, toppled over me, then crushed me under its weight. After that… blackness.

It was truly one of the most bizarre things I have ever experienced. I know what I saw. I know what I felt. I know what happened. And yet, it wasn’t real.

See, that wall is what I saw—right before the blackness.

As I had already mentioned, my brother and I were having a little fun with the helium gas that was intended for the balloons. We would put small amounts into a balloon, breathe it in, talk funny for a second or two, then laugh about it. We weren’t doing a lot of this, just a few times. Still, there came a point where my brother said, “I wonder how long you could talk if you sucked in a whole balloon?” Now, he wasn’t speaking directly to me, it did appear more of a ‘just a thought’ sort of question. Still, now knowing what I know about my brother, it could have been either one. At any rate, I quickly became curious about his query. Yes, how long could you talk with a whole balloon of helium in your lungs…? Only one way to find out!

I filled the balloon. Put my mouth to the lip of the balloon. Relaxed the pressure on the neck and sucked in the entire contents of said balloon. Enter the brick wall. I still vividly recall as the last bits of gas left the now deflated balloon, a large brick wall materializing out of nowhere, slamming into me, knocking me to the ground, crushing me, and then nothing but darkness. Reflecting back upon it all, it’s I am positive the experience was a hallucinatory result due to the now lack of oxygen in my brain. And, it still remains nightmarish and unpleasant.

Next thing I recall is the terrified look on my brother’s face as my eyes began to open and focus. He was voicing his concerns over if I was alright, how my head sounded like it cracked open on the brick floor, how he thought I had died, and some other stuff. The only thing more vividly recollected than the memory of the wall that took me down is the sound of my voice when I responded with, “I think I’m okay.” and the disappointment in—after all that—that it was only at normal pitch.

Once again, I’m probably lucky that I didn’t die.

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