It’s difficult to know where to begin, and hopefully, this post can be a catalyst for change with other families. I beg you to read this, determine how you can be prepared, and spread the word to more families.
Stacey and I experienced the most terrifying moment of our lives when our son, Charlie, had a serious choking event this past week. While we were cleaning after dinner, he found some grapes that his sister left out. This would usually be nothing abnormal as his mission in life is to eat and he constantly finishes food from her plate. We have also been feeding him grapes, both cut and recently whole. But this time would prove to be different.
A grape became lodged in Charlie’s throat. My wife immediately heard and saw that Charlie was distressed. We’ve had minor choking instances before with both kids, but this was significantly different—we knew this instantly.
My wife attempted back thrusts but the grape didn’t come out. She instructed me to call 911 within 20-30 seconds of noticing Charlie. I’m convinced this was one of the many things that saved his life.
I’ll deviate from the story for a moment . . . please indulge me. We did CPR training about 5.5 years ago before our daughter was born. I was also certified in CPR as a lifeguard growing up. What no textbook, article, or training class can help you understand is the MAGNITUDE of panic and shock that hits you. I remember my thumb trembling as I pressed 9-1-1 and placed the call. Things seemed to move in slow motion and at light speed simultaneously. Decision making becomes difficult, emotions trump logic, and fight-or-flight consumes your body. Perhaps if we would have been more confident in our training and knowledge, we would have acted and reacted differently. What happened in the immediate aftermath felt like a terrifying out-of-body experience.
As I called 911 and summoned an ambulance, our family ran outside to our front yard. My wife was/is a rockstar. She was exactly where she needed to be and she set everything in motion. But by the time we were in our front yard, extreme panic set in. Charlie was blue and limp. I’m not talking about blue-tinted and slightly limp. He looked like a lifeless smurf/Pinocchio combination. Images of his body dangling from my wife’s arms will stay with me forever. Thankfully, we live at the end of the street in a community with close relationships with our neighbors. As my wife screamed desperately for help, with agony and pain I’ve never heard before, doors opened and neighbors poured out. Our support team took over during critical moments when our bodies and minds couldn’t further help our son. These moments seemed to last an eternity. We could feel hope slipping with every passing second. But two neighbors worked tirelessly and dislodged the grape. They also began CPR. Charlie’s color started to return but he was completely unresponsive.
First responders arrived within nine minutes of calling 911. I vividly remember the smell of burnt rubber as the first medic arrived in his personal vehicle and gave us a grain of instant hope. Other medics arrived shortly thereafter along with the ambulance. We were transported to an ER and ultimately to the children’s hospital in Charlotte, NC. I’m writing this post as I sit next to my son. He’s sleeping. I hear him breathing. Thank God. Charlie’s fight isn’t over, but signs look positive.
We’re now planning his second birthday party in 3 weeks. The guest list has changed from “family” to “everyone is welcome”.
Please pray for him. I’m praying for my son along with every family this could happen to. We got comfortable as parents. I understand accidents happen, but every parent knows the pain of second-guessing their actions and methods. God ensured our dominoes fell in the right direction for us that day: we noticed distress immediately, we called 911 with no hesitation, we had neighbors who were able to assist on a Sunday evening when almost everyone was home, paramedics arrived within 10 minutes, and we live in a major city with hospitals nearby. If any one of these dominoes were removed, I fear a catastrophic chain reaction could have changed our circumstances.
Please use this as an opportunity for your family. We as parents can’t watch our kids every passing second. But we can arm ourselves with knowledge that can save their lives.