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Self-tracheotomy second one done by Omaha man

By ERIC OLSON / The Associated Press
Friday, May 09, 2008 - 04:33:10 pm CDT

OMAHA — The 55-year-old Omaha man who performed a tracheotomy on himself with a steak knife says he did the same thing to himself two years ago.

Steve Wilder said Friday that his throat is shrunken because of radiation treatments for cancer. Those treatments ended four years ago, but scar tissue remains. He said seasonal allergies may have caused his struggle to breathe overnight April 30.

“I didn’t feel no pain. I was just trying to survive,” Wilder said in his high-pitched, gravelly voice. “I got relief right away. There was a big gush of blood, and I was able to start sucking in air.”

Wilder said he fell asleep watching television in his basement but awakened when he felt himself suffocating. His wife, Cora, called an ambulance.

“I thought they might get here fast enough that I wouldn’t have to do that,” he said. “But I couldn’t breathe no more.”

He bolted for the kitchen and picked up a steak knife and made a quarter-inch incision.

“I knew that would chop it open pretty good,” he said.

After medics took him to a hospital, he was given antibiotics to prevent a possible infection. The next day his physician inserted a tube in his throat.

Wilder, who did not give his occupation, said he’s working again and feeling good.

He said he’s had three tracheotomies since 2004. He performed the first one on himself in 2006 under similar circumstances.

“They think I might have some kind of allergy,” Wilder said. “The only time I get a shortage of wind is in the spring. It’s seasonal.”

A spokeswoman for Immanuel Medical Center, Lora Ullerich, said Friday that because of federal medical privacy restrictions she would not be able to comment on Wilder’s situation.

A tracheotomy, a procedure that opens up the windpipe, typically is done in a surgical setting. Wilder said he isn’t ready to perform tracheotomies on other people.

But his doctor told him that he did a pretty good job on himself.

“I told him we should split the bill then,” Wilder said.