Omaha Man Breathes Easy After Taking a Knife to His Throat

Allergies may have caused an Omaha man to take a knife to his throat.

ByABC News
September 17, 2008, 3:04 PM

May 20, 2008 — -- "Was I scared? Heck yeah! I didn't want to cut myself."

Steve Wilder, 55, may not have wanted to take a knife to his own throat, but his do-it-yourself tracheotomy probably saved his life.

Wilder, a truck driver from Omaha, Neb., was asleep in his basement two weeks ago and awoke when he found himself unable to breathe. Afraid that the rescue squad would not get to his home in time, Wilder ran into his kitchen, grabbed a steak knife and made a slit through his throat so that his windpipe could get air, unobstructed.

This was the second time Wilder had taken matters into his own hands. Wilder performed a self-tracheotomy in 2006 under similar circumstances, when he felt he could not breathe.

"I did what I did the first time. I took a knife and opened it up," Wilder said, in his high-pitched, broken voice. "I did it to save my life."

The problem began after Wilder had throat cancer and underwent radiation therapy four years ago.

"Radiation actually cooked his muscles," said Cora Wilder, his wife. "If you feel his neck and my neck, his neck is hard and my neck is soft."

Paul Sherrerd, Wilder's doctor, said that he had more inflammation from the radiation treatments than was normal and that it had not gone away completely. He suspects that Wilder's inability to breathe sometimes may be due to seasonal allergies.

Wilder said that both times his throat has swollen to the point where he felt he could not breathe have been in the spring.

"Something has to set off the swelling," said Sherrerd, an ear, nose and throat doctor at Immanuel Medical Center in Omaha. "It could be allergy, which I think is probably what happens with him."

But Wilder and his wife are not convinced his problem is related to an allergy. Aside from some occasional difficulty breathing, Wilder does not experience other symptoms that are typical to an allergic reaction, such as itchy, watery eyes or a runny nose.

Cora Wilder said her husband never had a history of allergies or illness.