Want To Know How To Save A Life? Keep Reading

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I’m not going to go so far as to say that we “almost lost” Olivia, but things, as they say, almost got real the other night at dinner.

I had whipped up quite possibly the best green bean casserole ever, and had paired it with some white rice and roast split chicken breasts. These breasts were huge {insert tasteless joke here, if needed}, so I figured the four I cooked would more than feed my little family of five. I put one each in Beth and my plates, and coarsely chunked up the third one for the kids using the tongs. The result was large pieces of chicken for each of the three kids.

We sat and began our meal, sharing stories of the day and other Brady Bunch stuff. Jake’s usually the one who gets everyone a glass of ice water with dinner, and he hadn’t yet done this. I was still prepping my plate, and everyone was talking, and I hadn’t yet gone around and cut the kids’ meat into manageable bites.

Out of nowhere, Olivia got up from her seat (to my immediate left) and walked around behind me. I assumed she was headed for her own glass of ice water, and wasn’t waiting for Jake to get her one. It wasn’t until I looked up and saw the look on Beth’s face as she studied her daughter that I realized something wasn’t right. Beth darted a quick glance at me and I knew the level of emergency in the room had just gone up to DefCon 1. Liv was bright red, panicky, and with tears starting to stream down her face. She was whistling and grabbing at her throat – choking on a piece of chicken. Whistling is the best word for it; somewhere between a whistle and a wheeze.

Beth immediately began shouting instructions: “Stay calm! Cough hard! That a girl, you can do it! C’mon, cough! You’re OK!”

We had eyes locked on each other as I moved around behind Olivia to assume the Heimlich Maneuver position, silently laying out the plan for the next few minutes. By the time I got there, she was able to successfully spit the wad of half-chewed chicken onto the floor. Jake loudly asked why Olivia “throwed up” and Gabe was standing on his chair as if the world’s largest rat had just run through our kitchen. He was crying. “I’m scared,” he cried. “I thought I was losing my sister.”

There we stood, me holding Gabe, and Beth holding Liv, Jake happily returned to his meal. Everybody was thankful that the scare was over, and trying to get themselves back into a strong enough state to finish dinner.

Once everybody calmed down, we used the “teachable moment” to discuss the hows and whys of choking, what to do and when, and reminded the kids that as healthcare professionals, we were well trained to handle any situation that came up.

I thought it good information to share. Keeping calm and knowing what to do in such a situation, like the one we almost found ourselves in, might mean the difference between life and death. For example, what works on a 2 year old isn’t going to be appropriate for a 9 year old like Olivia. Back blows, for instance, could have very well lodged the food deeper into her partially obstructed airway, making rescue even more difficult – or perhaps impossible. It’s important to let someone try to work it out on their own if they’re still breathing, even if just a little. This is the scary period. Insufficient air flow is life threateningly dangerous, but with a little time, MOST people can cough a piece of food from their throat in MOST cases. Once you’ve determined that they’ve had their chance and its not gonna happen, get to work!

This is a link from WikiHow that goes through some step-by-step instructions, along with pictures, in how to recognize and treat a choking victim.

On another note, kids tend to get really scared really quickly and for some strange reason, run and hide when things like that happen.  Beth had even started scolding Liv for doing just that, but Liv insists she was trying to get a drink.  Be sure and warn your kids about the risk of choking, to take small bites and chew thoroughly; but most importantly how to seek help.  It could save their life!

heimlich winner

heimlich child

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