Every once in awhile, I’ll think about the day my baby choked and get shivers up my spine. Back when I was pregnant, I signed my husband and myself up for a routine childbirth class at the hospital where I was going to give birth. During that class, the instructor encouraged us to sign up for an Infant CPR class. I had taken general classes before because my employer required it but my husband had never taken one so I signed us up. I wasn’t all that thrilled to take a class on Sunday and we even thought about just watching something online instead. I am really thankful we ended up going because little did I know then that I would have to use what I learned to save my baby’s life less than a year later.
The class was actually quite good! Our instructor seemed somewhat new and there was only one other family there but I was able to ask a lot of questions and make sure my husband got the hang of Infant CPR. We both learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on an baby which I had not learned previously. To be honest – I was more worried about him learning than myself just because I was already familiar with many CPR and first-aid procedures.We left the class feeling more confident about our ability to properly care for a baby and moved on with life.
(One of my favorite newborn photos)
Fast forward about 9 months. My daughter was at a wonderful age, 7 months old and exploring the world around her. She was just starting to get more mobile with crawling, scooting and pulling up. She was also at that stage of putting everything in her mouth which was both adorable and stressful. We had an open concept house so the family room, dining room and kitchen were all one large area which was great because I was able to see her all the time. One day I was making our lunch at the kitchen counter and she exploring close by. Our kitchen was baby-proofed and I was making a sandwich for myself and getting my little one some homemade baby food out of the freezer. I certainly didn’t expect what happened next.
I had just cut my sandwich in half when I looked over to check on her which I did about every 10 seconds back then. Her face was red and panicked and she was flailing her arms. It hit me like a ton of bricks that she was choking. I had no idea how but it didn’t matter, I knew I had to act fast. You know how everyone says what you learn in first-aid classes comes right back during an emergency? Well thankfully that was true for me. I didn’t even have to hesitate or think. I picked her up, placed her across my left forearm facing down and tilted to the floor and administered “back slaps“. After a few slaps, she started crying and I felt a wave of relief. I pulled her face up but before I was even able to look at her, I could tell that she was choking again. Realizing the item must have slipped down her throat again, I put her back into position and administered more back slaps.
Oddly enough, I didn’t feel all that hysterical or panicked. I was totally focused on getting the object out. Finally – I saw a small item fly across the room and land on the dining room carpet. I picked her up and she was wide-eyed but breathing and looking around. Her eyes were watery and her face was a bit red but she was calm. I sat down on the floor with her on my lap that is when it all hit me. My heart was pounding extremely hard and the hair on my arms was standing on end. I was so grateful that she was okay and also completely shocked that it had just happened. It was an overwhelming experience.
I doubt I did things perfectly and after it all happened I realized I had forgotten a couple of things. But all that mattered was that my baby was fine. If I had not taken that infant CPR class, I would not have known what to do. I don’t know if I would have been able to get the object out or if paramedics would have arrived in time. I really don’t like to think about what could have happened.
After I calmed down, I went over and found the piece that had flown out of her airway. It was a small, dried up piece of food that she probably found underneath the dishwasher that I had missed while sweeping and could not see from my point of view. Let me tell you – I was careful about sweeping and vacuuming from then on!
She is going to to be 3 years old soon and I still get a little panicked whenever I hear her cough or make a funny sound while she eats. I am still a little paranoid about her eating certain foods. Although I have told family and friends what happened – no one can understand what it feels like to experience your child choking and being the only one there to help her. By the way, I called the hospital and thanked the teacher. I told him his class saved my baby’s life. From his reaction, I don’t think he’d ever heard that before but I hope it encouraged him and let him know that what he was doing mattered.
I am sharing this story to encourage parents-to-be, experienced parents, grandparents, babysitters and anyone who spends time with a baby or young child to take an Infant CPR class. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is all that common to do so but I hope I can change that even just a little bit. Start by calling your local hospital or go to Red Cross or the American Heart Association’s website to find a course near you. It will be well worth your time and hopefully you’ll never have to use what you learn!