Wednesday, March 4, 2009
UP TO THE HILT: HOW IS YOUR GAG REFLEX?
At the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum in central London last week, Dan Meyer, 51, was marking International Sword Swallowers Awareness Day, a day he devised to commemorate the ancient art. "We have days to mark the contribution of nurses and we have things like Mother's Day and Father's Day, so I thought, 'Why can't we have a sword swallowers day?'" Meyer said, after his performance. The event is marked at displays around the world, co-ordinated by the Sword Swallowers Association International. Among those due to take part were George the Giant, the world's tallest sword swallower, at an event in California, while the largest ever gathering of female sword swallowers was due to be held in New York. Meyer added: "We sword swallowers risk our lives every time we swallow a sword, but many people don't believe it's real or they think the art has died out. So I want them to know the truth." In fact it takes years to master the skill. A performer has to learn to control their gag reflex, relax the lower oesophageal sphincter - the muscular ring at the lower end of the oesophagus - and control the peristalsis reflex - the 22 pairs of muscles that we use to swallow our food. If any of this goes wrong, the sword swallower risks puncturing his stomach, his lungs or his throat, and causing an infection which can be fatal. Meyers' most serious accident came in 2005. He was swallowing five swords at once, his stomach retched and his lungs and heart were flooded with fluid. "I took the sword out and said to my wife, 'That hurt,'" he recalled. Meyer was unable to eat any solid food for four weeks, and drank nothing but iced water. But he was determined to carry on. And why? "I love seeing the expression on people's faces," he said. "And I inspire people to do the impossible in their lives. My message is simple: 'Don't let people say you can't do something. If you put your mind to it and try hard enough you can do anything you want'."
EXTREME Sword Swallower vs. Sharks UNDERWATER in Shark Tank!