I am still not sure what alerted me that something was wrong. It must have been a small noise he made or a change in his movements. I was in the kitchen cutting up a hot dog (of all things) to add to our lunch of mac and cheese. Carter was sitting at his spot at the table, his back to me, eating canned peaches. Canned peaches! I almost lost Carter at lunch today because he choked on a bite sized piece of canned peaches.
I went over to him and saw that he was not able to swallow or spit or cough. There was saliva oozing out of his mouth and his lips were moving but there was no noise. I do remember from my first aid training, about four years ago, that if a person appears to be choking but is making airway clearing noises that you should just let them be. Watch them but let them be. Carter was not making noises. I pushed his chair back and tried to gently squeeze in and up on his chest, just below his ribcage but nothing happened. He could not breath. I don’t know the sequence of what happened next. I took him from his chair and pounded his back, I squeezed him. Hard. I even stuck my finger down his throat to try to make him throw up (God, should I have done that!?). At one point I ran to the phone and picked it up but then had the realization that 911 could not help – they were too far away. His eyes were open but he was like a rag doll in my arms.
It was awful and I am still very shaken by it. Carter was choking and no one could help him but me. And I didn’t know what the hell to do. I pounded his back some more, feeling like I was about to lose it at any moment, seriously lose my shit. I remember chanting calmly to him to throw up, to spit it out, to cough. And then he did. The peach shot out of his mouth and hit the floor. He took a breath and with a tear forming in the corner of his right eye, he looked at me and asked me why I had been squeezing him so hard.
At this point my entire body sagged and started shaking. I let out a deep breath and I hugged him and just kept hugging him. After he squirmed out of my grasp we examined the offending piece of fruit on the floor. Carter called it a “bad peach” and I have to say that I agree with him.
Then the what ifs start going around in my head. What if he had not coughed? What if he did not start breathing? What if I had not been in the room and had not seen that he needed help? It is not uncommon for me to give the boys a snack while I go to the bathroom or go outside to refill the bird feeders, or fold laundry or a million other things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just give them food and wander away all the time, but I do sometimes. Cody is six and Carter is four; I have kind of stopped worrying about them choking on things and started worrying more about them being abducted by random pedophiles. I think I stopped cutting their hotdogs horizontally about six months ago. Carter loves grapes and we do have a rule about sitting down when eating them but I haven’t cut grapes up for him in a very long time.
Not ten minutes after the choking incident Carter thought that maybe he wanted to eat some more peaches. My throat working again, momma. My first instinct was to say no. I said yes so as not to give him a life long fear of canned peaches, but you can bet I cut those suckers up so small you almost needed a microscope to see them.
Here is some interesting information I found in an article from the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Choking is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children, especially those aged 3 years or younger.
- Choking on food causes the death of approximately 1 child every 5 days in the United States. Hot dogs accounted for 17% of food-related asphyxiations among children younger than 10 years of age.
- Other high-risk foods include hard candy, peanuts/nuts, seeds, whole grapes, raw carrots, apples, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, marshmallows, chewing gum, and sausages.
I have two questions for you:
How long has it been since you last took a first aid class?
How much of that first aid class do you really remember?
I am off to look up first aid classes offered in our area, perhaps you should do the same…
Oh, and as a side note, I think that when I first realized that Carter was seriously choking, I should have called 911. If the peach would not have become dislodged, it would have been that much longer before help arrived. It is better to look like an idiot and have help arrive when you no longer need it than to call for that help when it is too late.