Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Last night, while the kids were in their rooms reading pre-bedtime and I was flopped out in the master bedroom, Michael was downstairs.

And he choked.

I heard a mild ruckus -- as though a kitchen chair had tipped over -- and thought nothing of it. Then, a thumping and crashing noise traveled up the stairs, and I thought I'd better check it out.

I encountered Michael at the head of the steps, gasping and gulping. He managed to squeeze out the words "can't breathe" but that was all.

Now, Michael has asthma (as, indeed, does every member of our family), and in the past has had strange respiratory reactions to various OTC meds, so I had no idea what was going on -- I assumed he was having a very bad asthma attack. I grabbed him diagonally across the chest and talked him into relaxing and allowing what little air was getting through to get through. When he had recovered a bit more breath, he gasped "Something went down the wrong pipe."

I still wasn't registering what had happened, but he was getting some air in at this point, so I wasn't panicked. I had him lie flat on the bed to relax and he started gasping again. That's when the penny dropped. "Choking? You're choking!" I stood him up again and peered at him more closely; his face was gray.

Being vertical seemed to help pass whatever needed passing, and lots of good coughs and burps later, his color was improved and the crisis was over. He had been having a snack of pear, cheese and crackers, and a chunk of pear had gone to the wrong spot.

Being the wonderful wife that I am, the first thing I did after the crisis had passed was yell at Michael for not using the universal sign for "I'm choking."

Seriously, I'm short, but I'd have found a way to perform Heimlich on him.

I went to tuck the kids in -- our nightly "snuggle time" -- and taught them both the universal sign for choking. I also told them if they ever see anyone who looks like they're having trouble breathing to run and get the nearest adult.

Seriously, we do a great job teaching our kids not to get into cars with strangers, but we don't teach them about how to respond to a choking incident (either as the choker or as an bystander). And I'm guessing it's statistically much more likely that most folks (kids and adults) will have to deal with the latter than the former in the course of their lives.

SO! Teach your kids the universal sign for choking, and make them practice it. Myself, I think I'm going to randomly shout out "Pretend you're choking!" at odd intervals until it becomes second nature (for the kids AND for Michael). If you've got bigger kids or other grownups in your house, make sure they know the Heimlich maneuver, and have them "pretend" practice it from time to time. Muscle memory is a very powerful thing, and a quick response time can mean the difference between life and death.

No joke. My friend Val's ex-husband died after choking on a piece of meat, and now she's raising two kids with no dad. It can happen just that quickly, folks.

Be safe out there.


Anonymous said...

How frightening, Ruth, but I'm so glad that Michael is all right.

You enlighten me -- I know how to do Heimlich, theoretically at least, but who knew there was a universial sign for choking? Not I, but now my whole family will.

Thank you for posting about Michael's experience. It makes me feel weak to think about it - you must be limp.


O said...

That universal sign saved my friend Shannon's life. She arrived early to a concert where she was meeting friends and used the time to eat a sandwich, a piece of which promptly lodged in her throat. Fortunately she and the security guard at the entrance to her section knew the sign, and he saved her life with the Heimlich too. Scary stuff. Thanks for the reminder.

RuthWells said...

Wow, O, that's amazing. I think the key is being able to react quickly -- give the sign quickly, give Heimlich quickly.

Marcia, I really didn't realize how serious it *could* have been until it was all over, thankfully. It is terrifying in retrospect, of course.

Marlene said...

What a scary situation! It definitely makes you realize how fragile life can be. I'm so glad that Michael is okay, and it was a great opportunity to teach your boys a good lesson.

Vinkus07 said...

Unrelated Emergency . . .

I asked someone what they wanted for their birthday rather last minute figuring I could run out & buy them something in 20 minutes. Her response was, "OMG if your baking is as good as your candy-making, bake me something!!" I asked her what & got 'surprise me.' I know NOTHING about baking!!! Can you point me in the general direction of some very nearly fool-proof recipe or baking website . . . something?!

I'd greatly appreciate anything you can offer . . .

RuthWells said...

Hi Vinkus,

I'm a bit short on time today (leaving for a 10-day trip tomorrow; so many details!!), but you can't go wrong with chocolate chip cookies. Go to the Food TV website and search for Alton Brown's chocolate chip cookies.

Vinkus07 said...

Wow! Mexico? Have fun!!! I actually wound up getting plain old Duncan Hines cake mix in a panic. The stores being packed for superbowl Sunday & the birthday being tomorrow didn't leave a lot of patience room - I JUST got back & saw the comment. But as well as the cake, she'll get another type of candy I LOVE to make that we just call "'Oh my God' balls" because when people eat their first one, they say Oh my God. Oreo truffels pretty much. A package of oreos ground to oreo dust mixed with a packet of cream cheese, rolled into balls & coated in chocolate.

I will file your info away though . . . thanks.

Again, have fun!
Gotta bake! Ta!

Shalet said...

OK - I'm going to have a talk with my kids right now... Done. I'm glad your hubbie is a okay. Scary stuff!

BTW - did you know that when infants get scared they can hold their breath, turn blue and pass out? I did not know until it happened to us. Talk about scary.