Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heimlich Manoeuvre

Yesterday Lulu choked. She always eats banana, loves it, opens wide for big gulps of its pulpy flesh. I've seen her gag before - three seconds, maybe four, a sound pat on the back, swallow, and fine. Last night it was just like that, same gag, same plunk, swallow, then a jagged gulp-gag. Gag, swallow-gag. She couldn't get a breath. Gag. Lucy was not breathing.

I once had a woman show me the heimlich manoeuvre for infants in the middle of Target. I felt sheepish when Janie choked on a Cheerio, but the lady thumped her so confidently that I haven't worried over choking since.

Last night was different. In half a second less than no time I had Lulu over my knee, baby heimlich. She wailed. Good. Breathing. Gag. Not breathing. Gag. Then a script of gagging and crying and not breathing interspersed with vomiting and repeat performances of the heimlich. I'd lay her over my knees; she'd be fine. Sit her up, she'd seem okay and then couldn't breathe.

For the first time in my parenting life I actually thought about calling 911. I prayed.

The throw-up looked shiny on the floor. My sleeve felt damp. Both hands were slippery. As a last ditch effort I swept her mouth for any remaining debris and mopped it off on a discarded wet wipe. Oh, dear God, it looked bloody. Craig scooped up the other kids and shooed them into the sun room. The sweeties prayed for help.

Lulu was breathing for the moment so I stared at the wet wipe. The pink smudge was a perfect square. A square? I rubbed my fingernail over the mucous. Concealed in the fibers of the wipe was a small, clear plastic square a little bigger than my thumbnail.

For a long time Lucy just laid her cheek on my chest. She ate a full dinner, and I held her. I just kept thinking, "She's alive. She's alive. Thank-you, God."


  1. I don't know what to say, except I love you, sister. Ours was an oyster cracker. Scariest moment of my life--except when AJ wrecked his motorcycle. If parenthood doesn't make you believe in God's grace, I don't know what will.

  2. Wow, my heart skipped a beat a little bit just from reading about it - how scary! It's amazing to trace the thread of understanding back to an embarrassing moment at Target. God is good!

  3. You are such a good mama--didn't freak out, and kept after it. Oh I know you were freaking on the inside but you kept your wits and drew on everything you had inside. It is a lot like you described in your entry entitled JANE--"Something passes between us. It's almost a permission, a leading and following all at once, as if we both grabbed hands and began to run." Except in this case Lulie's life depended on it.

  4. Well you definitely got my heart racing! So glad she (and the rest of you) are ok. How terrifying!

  5. Holy cow!! That is so scary! Choking is one of my biggest fears with the kids. I freak if they even start gagging!
    Sounds like you were calm and collected, as usual!
    What a great Mommy you are to all your little ones.

  6. Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones, but I got really teary-eyed as I finished reading that! How scary, but I feel I must repeat everyone else that's commented and let ya know you are such a great mom Bethany! You always seem to remain so calm...

  7. Oh Bethany! I'm going through a "choking stage" of my own as we transition into these teenage years. Sometimes I feel as though the "throw-up looked shiny on the floor. My sleeve felt damp. Both hands were slippery..." after I have a confrontation with my dear, sweet child who is transforming into an adult before my very eyes. I feel as though LeRoy should "scoop up the other kids and shoo them into the sun room" where they can "pray for help." I am inspired, encouraged, empowered by your blog, to keep at it, "make a last ditch effort" to sweep the heart for any remaining "debris." You're such a great Mama, Bethany! I LOVE the way you keep your composure, your perspective. Your children are so very blessed. Thank you, God, for holding Lulu and the other two in your hands and for giving Bethany the grace to handle each situation as it presents itself.

  8. Oh how scary... I know you were just praising God when you were holding her later. Reminds me of how fragile life can be.

  9. Oh, thank God!

    Good work, mama. Way to keep your head enough to help you little one. I sometimes wonder if I'd be able to act, or if I'd just freeze in fear.

    Again - thank the Lord!

    I'm gonna go hug my kids now...

  10. My word! You sure know how to write and get the deepest emotions out of a person. So glad she's okay. Praise God!

  11. My pediatrician told me that grapes are the food most commonly choked on by little kids. She told me that if she is out to eat and sees a little kid eating grapes, she stays until they are done in case they need heimlicking. Hence, I didn't feed my kids grapes until they were ten.