Did the headline get your attention? That was my intent- I don’t want to brag (or humble brag), but I want to get your attention and tell you my story.
When the older three Little Explorers were small, I occasionally considered taking an infant lifesaving course. Once, Gertrude Bell was eating a hotdog and started choking. Ironically, it was the bite of soup I’d given her that she was choking on, but she was choking all the same. She also started choking on a piece of hard candy out front of a restaurant, which ended up coming out of her mouth with such force, it shattered on the sidewalk. Scary, but still not enough to spur me to action.
Laura Ingalls Wilder spent a total of six weeks in the NICU, three of which were after I arrived to adopt her. The head nurse offered me an infant CPR course. I agreed immediately, worried about bringing home such a tiny little baby. The next day, the instructor wheeled a cart with a dummy baby into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s room, and I got a private instruction while my tiny daughter-to-be slept. I said a silent prayer I’d never have to use it, and that I’d remember what to do if I did.
Today, that prayer got put to the test. We were at the mall food court and getting ready to clean up the mess of four kids and four adults. (The International Man of Intrigue’s parents are visiting.) I put some stuff in the trash and came back over and told the International Man of Intrigue not to go back that way, because there was a kid puking. By the time I’d finished telling him that, we turned around, and the kid was clearly no longer puking. He was choking and bleeding from the mouth. The International Man of Intrigue walked over, with me behind. We asked if they needed help. The International Man of Intrigue dialed 911 and I asked if the little boy needed the Heimlich Maneuver (although I’m not sure that’s exactly what it is when done on a kid). The parents were crying and saying yes. I turned to The International Man of Intrigue and asked if he would do it. He said, “No, I can’t. Not on a kid.” I said those words that call up a super hero in every woman, “I’ll do it. Hold my purse.” I squatted down, grabbed the two year old and tipped him over, face down, and started hitting him in the back with the heel of my palm. After a couple of hits, I found out that he was responsive, but still choking. His dad kept saying his name, “Are you okay, Tommy? Tommy?” I also realized that he was still choking. I tilted him again and started the procedure, all the while thinking, “Surely there is someone here who knows what they’re doing. Oh, God, okay. That’s me.” I realized then that the little guy had become unresponsive. I yelled, “Ok, he’s not responsive.” I realized I was so scared to hurt this baby that I was causing him more pain. I needed to tilt further and hit harder. I said, “Ok, Buddy. Ok, Mom, I have to hit him harder.” I titled further and used the heel of my hand, hard, between his shoulder blade. Suddenly, there was so much more blood, and the offending piece of chicken. The mom grabbed the little boy and The International Man of Intrigue picked me up off the floor. I started crying as the little boy’s dad hugged me and thanked me. He was crying, too. The International Man of Intrigue was finally on the phone with 911, after it ringing about 30 times. I looked over and saw my father in law and the Little Explorers pale faced and mouths open. I expected to be surrounded by people, was praying there was an emergency responder or off duty nurse somewhere. I looked around and realized it was just us. The people around us were still eating and carrying on conversation, even the ones staring. I found out my father in law had tried to stop someone for help and the person had walked off.
In the end, despite the request from the dad for our contact information so he could treat us to dinner or something, I hugged him, hugged his wife, and kissed Tommy on the head. I walked away and started crying. It was part adrenaline, part relief, and part fear of the thought of the consequences of failure.
If I’m not bragging, why am I telling you this story? There are three reasons. The first is simple. The International Man of Intrigue already posted it on Facebook. The second is just to beg you, please, please, if you have children at home, make the time to take that first aid course. I can’t imagine having had to watch this little boy die, let alone one of my own children. Lastly, remember not to be a bystander in an emergency. It’s so easy to defer responsibility. Even if you don’t know how to render aid, you can call 911 or run for assistance.
That’s my story for today. Just remember that next time I tell you, “Hold my purse.”