Last week I Heimlich'd a diamante heart out of Lucy and she started breathing again.
I couldn't write about it for a while, because it was so shocking and surreal and such an incredibly close call. We'd just come home from work/school/preschool. The 45 minute loop from my office to their respective schools to home is hard to do at the end of a long day. I love picking them up, learning about their day, who pushed who (Lucy) and how baby zebras can tell their Moms by their stripes (Anna). It's a long drive though and it quickly devolves into hungry tired whining. And that's just from me.
As soon as we walk in the door I make them a quick snack, turn on the TV and head upstairs for 15 minutes of decompression. I've found this works wonders for my blood pressure and my parenting.
But parenting is a full time job, and last Tuesday, 10 minutes into my zen time I hear Anna screaming "Mom, Mom, Lucy's choking". I could tell by her tone of voice that something was really wrong, and by the time I'd flown down the stairs I could see that it was serious. Lucy was bright red and gagging, saliva filling her mouth, clutching at her neck. It was horrific. Anna was terrified, she shot upstairs crying "I can't see this". I started thumping Lucy on the back but it didn't seem to be doing any good. I couldn't get at the object because it was too far down her throat. She was going more of a purple colour, and was making sporadic small choking gasps, so my rational mind knew that some air was getting in, but I couldn't think of stopping what I was doing to get on the phone to call 911. I couldn't just leave her there to struggle. I had a flashback to some first aid classes I'd done in the sixth form at school, and then Eddie Izzard leapt to mind with his Heimlich maneuver. Lucy's stomach was going rigid, and it was hard to get sufficient resistance because she's only three, but eventually by holding her against my leg I could push hard enough up on her stomach to help. I'm not sure if it was the Heimlich, Lucy's own body finally kicking in a defence mechanism or what, but she finally heaved up the piece of jewelry and it went skidding across the kitchen floor.
Two minutes later, after I'd hugged and cleaned her up, she wanted to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. Anna and I were still shaking, hearts like hummingbirds, and then LK walked in and the front door took one look at us and said "what the hell just happened?"
Of course he suggested I could have picked her up by her ankles and shaken her, but it's amazing how the that kind of clarity of thinking doesn't strike you in an emergency.
This is what was actually going through my head during those nightmare three to five minutes:
- This cannot be happening.
- At what point do I call an ambulance?
- Her stomach is rigid, oh shit that's not good.
- This cannot be happening.
- Breathe, Lucy breathe.
- We have a $4,000 deductible. How much is an ambulance.
- Please no, please no, please no
- Oh God, what should I do?
- Heimlich - it's a maneuver!
I think maybe it's time to take a first aid refresher course, because it's very clear that these things can come at you from nowhere, and there's no guarantee Eddie Izzard has covered that particularly medical emergency.
I had really thought we were past the choking stage, with a six year old and a three year old, but apparently not. The girls had been playing nicely together. Lucy was pretending to be a dog, and was feigning biting Anna's necklace. The quarter sized diamante heart attached to Anna's chain pulled off in Lucy's mouth and must have fallen straight to the back of her throat. It's that bizarre and that easy. We went from a normal evening to Lucy fighting for every breath in two minutes.