It was a sunny Sunday after about eight years ago. I was on a short hike with our two big dogs and my husband and Lauren, who was about ten months at the time, were hanging out at home. As I was a few blocks from the house, I heard sirens and they sounded close. I was friendly with several of our neighbors, two of whom were very elderly, so I assumed that something must have happened–a fall or worse.
A minute later, my cell phone rang. It was my husband. “The ambulance is at our house. Don’t panic. Lauren was choking but she’s fine now.” Ambulance? Choking? What? Panicking was an instinct not an option. I sprinted home.
When I got there, the EMTs were loading Lauren, in her car seat, onto the stretcher. Still confused, I climbed in with her. They told me that she needed to go to the hospital to be checked out even if she seemed fined. Protocol I guess, for when anyone calls 911 for a child.
Before I could get the story about what had happened, we were off. Lauren fell asleep almost immediately so I called my husband and asked “What happened? What was she choking on?” He told me that she had been standing by the front door (she wasn’t walking yet) and suddenly he noticed that she was gasping and coughing. She turned bluish and her eyes rolled back in her head. He grabbed her and ran outside to the front yard so that he could try to clear her airway and yell to a neighbor to call 911 at the same time.
Since I had taken Infant and Child CPR and First Aid through the Red Cross before taking a job as a nanny, I had shown him the basics: Lay the infant face down across your arm with her head lower than her body, cradle her chin in your hand. With the heel of your other hand, thrust blows downward just below the baby’s shoulder blades. He did this and yelled for our neighbor to call 911. After a few tries, an earring back flew out of Lauren’s mouth and she began to breathe again. Phew. But the ambulance was already on its way.
At the hospital, Lauren was examined and then X-rayed to see if she had swallowed a foreign object. Sure enough, there was an industrial-sized carpet staple sitting in her stomach. We guessed that both objects had been lodged in her airway and that one had gone up and one had gone down when my husband
wacked her on the back saved her life.
As scary as that incident was, it was not the only time it happened. About six months later, we had people over and someone gave Lauren half an olive to try. What we didn’t know was that she had a dry cleaning tag already tucked in her mouth. She began to choke again and this time I was the one who flipped her over and got the offending items out of her mouth. I was expecting only to find the half olive that she had been eating but was surprised to fish out the pink piece of paperboard as well. This time, we didn’t bother to call 911 since we could see that she was breathing normally right away. She was fine. I wasn’t though. I couldn’t believe it happened again. Where was she finding these things? We kept our house clean and I picked up “chokers” as I called any small item whenever I saw them. It just goes to show that you can’t prevent all accidents from happening no matter how careful you are. You have to be prepared for things to go wrong. Babies and toddlers have ways of finding the tiniest things in couch cushions, under area rugs and embedded in carpet pile. If there is something they can fit in their mouths, they will find it.
I’m awfully glad I learned those seemingly simple but life-saving techniques before I became a mother because when the time came, the motions were instinctual.
Have you had any close calls with your baby? Are you CPR and First Aid Certified and if not, to you plan to be?