After a long, long week filled with high temperatures, barking coughs and runny noses we embraced our first fever free day yesterday by heading to our favorite breakfast joint. For once there was no wait and we were seated immediately.
The waitress came over to take our order.
“I wah baco!” C chirped up at her repeatedly until the waitress finally responded by smiling down at her. I translated “She’d like some bacon, please.”
We also ordered her a Mickey Mouse pancake and some smiley face potatoes. M and I ordered our usual fare and we settled down to wait for our food. We colored and played games reveling in the freedom of being out of the house. Our food came quickly and we dug in happily. C munched away on some bacon and a pancake, holding one in each hand, alternating bites.
“I think this is her first real meal in four days!” I said to M. “It’s good to see her eat again.”
The food was warm and good. I enjoyed all of it, savoring especially my sausage scramble.
C coughed and sputtered. After a week of it I barely took notice, until M’s panicked voice cut through m food contemplation.
“J! She’s choking!”
I looked across the table at my baby, who was, in fact, clearly choking.
I launched myself out of my booth and fumbled with the latch on her highchair. Her coughing was quickly giving way to the high pitched wheeze they call stridor. I only know this because I spent half of last week in CPR/First Aid training. In my panic I remembered the word ‘stridor’, but precious little else. The Heimlich maneuver is different when practiced on an infant or a young child. I remembered none of it.
Pure instinct kicked in and I grabbed C out of her chair and flung her upside down over my left arm. I used my right heel to whack her repeatedly between the shoulder-blades. I never thought that NOT hearing my child cry could be the worse sound in the world. After five good whacks I turned her back over, but she was still not breathing. I flipped her right back over and started again. There was no panic, no hysteria, I just did what I had to do. I hit her three more times and felt relief flood through me as she started to howl. The last time I felt such joy at hearing her cry was the day she was born.
I held her tight, and tried hard not to think about what could have been. We finished our meal with her sitting right next to me, quietly sucking on her pacifier and holding her doggy. As I held her tight I vowed to find my CPR/First Aid manual on Tuesday and review the proper technique to stop a child from choking. One day she’ll be too big to throw over my arm, and I’m not taking any risks.
Today, C’s face bears the mark of her trauma. She must have burst a few small blood vessels in her struggle to breathe because her face has little red dots all over the cheeks. Yesterday I couldn’t talk about it. M and I finished out meal as though nothing had happened. No one in the restaurant acted any different. The whole thing could have been a bad dream, if it weren’t for strange little dots all over my baby’s face.