On one of the last days of our Costa Rica trip this summer, we had one of the biggest scares of our life–our youngest daughter, who will turn 3 next week, almost choked on a quarter. My husband had to perform the heimlich maneuver on her. Thank God he knew how.
I know some people might call me a bad parent after reading this post.
Some might ask: Why in the world would you let your child play with coins?
Some might ask where in the world I was when she was putting coins in her mouth.
I posted a picture of the coins she had in her mouth that night on Instagram, but I didn’t tell the whole story. I was embarrassed. I was prideful.
Sharing this story is humbling. But it needs to be said because maybe it will help someone else.
Friends, the night my daughter almost choked, I wasn’t in the other room. I wasn’t even feet away. I was lying right beside her on the hotel bed. We were touching.
My four-year-old daughter was on the other side of her.
My husband was within arm’s reach as well, on his computer, on the next bed in a very small hotel room.
I was on my iPhone, scrolling through pictures on Facebook–pictures of our trip, the same pictures my husband was busy uploading.
I vaguely remember the sound of coins jingling together, but we had given our older two girls little change purses and some money to play with. (We will not be doing this again–not until their little sister is older, at least.)
It wasn’t until our 4-year-old frantically climbed over her sister and began yelling: “Get those coins out of your mouth! Get them out!” did we notice what was happening.
“Mommy!” our little girl shouted louder. “Sister swallowed the coins!”
Except, she hadn’t swallowed them. She coughed up two Costa Rican coins, the size of nickels.
But then she stopped coughing. She couldn’t talk. She wasn’t breathing. Her eyes filled with horror.
Our older two girls became frantic, and I screamed at my husband to do something. I knew he knew the heimlich because he had had to use it on a friend in college. I lived with that friend the year we were engaged.
According to her story, she was choking on a chicken nugget at a party, and my husband leaped over a papasan chair and saved her life.
My husband is cautious. I have a tendency to overreact (like the time I took our daughter into the ER for secondary drowning when it was really dehydration).
We both knew this was the real deal. When I was pregnant with her, we had taken a class on infant and child safety.
“Don’t perform the heimlich if they can still cough and talk,” I imprinted the instructor’s words on my brain. “If they stop, they are really choking.”
From then on out, if my girls seemed to be choking, I’ve always said: “Cough! Say ‘Mommy’!”
That night, I held her on the edge of the bed. “She is not coughing, Will!” I shouted. “Say ‘Mommy’! Say ‘Mommy’!”
Will bent her petite toddler frame over his hands now locked into a fist and began thrusting.
She threw up the quarter.
She was lethargic for about an hour after and started a raspy cough for the whole next week, but she was fine.
But she might not have been.
It all happened in an instant.
I was there, but I wasn’t there.
I was there, physically, but my mind was in a different place.
I don’t write this post to condemn any mom over iPhone use. Rather, I write it with a humbled heart because how many other times have my children needed me for whatever reason, and my mind was elsewhere?
I don’t condemn the use of technology by any means, but at times it does rob us of our focus that should be directed toward something more important. I know it does for me, at least.
1. Please be cautious with small objects.
I’m the mom who still cuts up grapes and hot dogs into tiny pieces for my 3-year-old. But, somehow, she grabbed the coins from her sister while I was otherwise engaged.
2. Please check out the heimlich maneuver if you haven’t already.
Since telling this story to several friends, we’ve learned of others who have had to use it. Learn to use it with an infant and a child (it’s different for children under 1). It could save a life.