A year ago, I almost lost my son. Here’s his story and the safety information I never wanted, but needed in that moment.
Two weeks before my son’s first birthday, I took my kids outside to play like any other summer morning. While applying sunscreen to my daughter, my son found a small plastic toy hidden in the grass and tried to swallow it.
I quickly realized he was choking and picked him up. I started pounding on his back and began screaming for someone to help me and call 911.
None of my neighbors heard me.
My house is surrounded by stay-at-home mothers who I see outside playing with their kids all of the time. I was hoping one of them would hear me and help, even if they didn’t know what was happening. Unfortunately, in this moment, none of my neighbors were outside to hear my screams.
Luckily my sister was visiting. She heard me from inside the house and called 911 immediately.
I have been CPR and first aid certified many times as an adult, but when it was my child, in that moment, my mind went blank.
The 911 operator was able to instruct me on how to dislodge the toy. After eight minutes of performing CPR with their help, I dislodged it right as the paramedics arrived. I am so thankful for the 911 operator for walking me through what needed to be done, for the paramedics for getting to my home quickly, and for the doctors and nurses we saw afterwards for ensuring there were no lasting effects from this.
From this experience, I have learned 5 tips that I want to share with you, not in the hopes that you have to use them, but that you are prepared should the need arise.
Call 911 immediately. If no one is available to call 911 for you, it is more important to call and speak to an operator than it is to try to address the emergency by yourself. The 911 operator will dispatch help and walk you through what to do in the moment.
Have a safety plan. Get to know your neighbors and identify someone that your family can use in case of emergencies. This should be someone that your kids could run to and ask for them to call 911. In this instance, it was my son who needed help. If it had been me, I am not sure my children would have been able to unlock my cell phone and call 911 independently.
Talk to this neighbor and ask if they would be comfortable being your family’s go-to person in case of emergencies. If they are not comfortable, find someone else who is.
Childproof your play spaces. Before letting your child play independently, do a quick sweep to make sure the space is safe. My son found a toy gem that was hidden in our grass. I didn’t even think about how my own yard might be unsafe for my child because it’s our space.
Keep toys in a designated space. There is a large age gap between my children. We now keep marbles, legos, and other small toys in a specific place in our home to minimize choking hazards. When we play with these toys, we pick them up afterwards. We have had conversations with our older children about how these toys can be unsafe and how important it is to clean up after ourselves.
Find out if there is a local CPR or first aid class near you, and become certified.
Since this happened, I’ve spoken to many mothers who have had similar experiences where they’ve been able to use CPR to help a child. One common theme I’m learning is that when it’s their own child, parents often experienced panic and have had their mind gone blank. However, their certification has still benefited them to help others.
Although this was one of the worst things that has ever had to happen to me as a mother, if sharing my son’s story helps even one person, I will share it. Find your neighbor, teach your kids what to do in an emergency, and remember you are a great parent no matter what happens.