COEUR d'ALENE - It can happen.
After Brittany Berg inadvertently ingested a wire bristle while eating her salmon April 1 - an accident that nearly landed her in the operating room - she and her family figured it was probably just a fluke.
Fortunately, a team of Kootenai Health medical staff was able to remove the 1-inch wire lodged in Berg's throat instead of putting her under and removing it the hard way.
"It's not what I wanted to do on spring break," said Berg, a Coeur d'Alene High School senior, on nearly going to the operating room that night. "But they said it was a pretty simple procedure and they were going to put me down, I wasn't too worried."
But Berg, dressed in hospital gown, IV in arm and anesthesiologist in the room, was spared. Doctors removed it using tubes and scopes though her throat and nose.
Not as horrible as it sounds, Berg said, since they numbed her before grabbing it from about 4 inches down.
"Everyone's face afterward was so funny," she said of the team of doctors once they removed the wire - which had been a suspected salmon bone - and held it up. "They were like, here it is."
Lisa Berg, Brittany's mother, said the family chalked it up as a one-time, freakish deal.
Then they looked it up.
And ABC news and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported on it recently, saying, yes, it does happen. The CDC report said physicians should be aware of the possibility - which shows its symptoms in swallowing discomfort - to facilitate timely diagnosis and treatment.
"I was really surprised because I've never heard about it before," said Lisa Berg. "But apparently, it's a pretty common occurrence."
Doctors from Rhode Island Hospital reported in 2012 that six people came to the emergency department swallowing wire bristles that got stuck in their food, the same hospital that had six such cases a few years before.
Reports show that wire bristles can tear one's gastrointestinal tract. In Berg's case, she began spitting up a small amount of blood before she headed to Kootenai Health. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration began looking into the issue more after hearing reports of two men, in New Jersey and Washington, who had been injured and needed surgery after accidentally ingesting a bristle.
Last year, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called for a federal review of grill brush safety in light of the news. Data showed nine cases of people injured by swallowing brush bristles reported since 2007, according to an ABC report. Grill brushes were also responsible for 28 other injuries since 2007, eight of which came about when consumers reported that a bristle got stuck on the grill or in their food.
In Berg's case, the tiny black wire blended in with the black grill too perfectly to easily spot.
"The next day it was pretty sore, but I'm better," said Berg, who will be attending Boise State University this fall to study pre-nursing. "I'm lucky it didn't go down further."
Brush companies couldn't be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
The family said they wanted to alert others that, though it seems unlikely, it can happen. The Bergs threw out their old brush and will give their grill in Hayden a good once over before the outdoor season kicks in for good this summer.
A good trick is damping down the grill with a wet paper towel before laying the meat on, Lisa Berg said she has since learned. That's what her husband, Michael Berg, will do from now on.
"He feels horrible," Lisa said of Michael, the grill chef. "We had no clue. I'm a nurse, and he's been barbecuing forever, and we had no idea."