It was a day like any other day. We had just celebrated AJ’s third birthday and PJ had turned one. I was at home with both boys. PJ had settled down for his afternoon nap upstairs. Peace and quiet settled over the house, as AJ became my little afternoon shadow.
We wandered into the study, me on the computer and AJ stood next to me playing with his toys on the desk. Within arm’s reach he raced his little car along the glass surface. Within arm’s reach he crashed his little car into a stack of pencils. Within arm’s reach he stopped. Silence. He grabbed my arm. Within arm’s reach his face was turning blue. Within arm’s reach my son was choking.
Adrenaline rose to my throat like petrol. I grabbed him, turned him around and started to hit his back. With the other hand I fumbled with my phone and rang 000. The instant I heard a voice, I yelled out my name, our address and then screamed “my three year old son is choking.” With that, I dropped the phone.
The study is right near our front door. I dragged both of us into the entrance way, opened the front door, knowing an ambulance was on its way. I kept hitting my son on his back.
In those moments, the house melted away. The two of us were in a large vacuous arena. A crowd surrounded us. On one side white, solemn angels stood with their heads bowed down. Their hands were clasped in prayer, a feint melancholy of song coming from their almost silent stand. The other half of the crowd was a snarling, evil sea of black and red. Spitting and cheering for death, the demons barbarically watched the scene with enthusiasm and gall.
In the middle, I was the gladiator.
In my mind was the echo of the first aid course hubby and I attended after we had AJ. “Keep hitting their back, hard and consistently, between the shoulder blades. Do not attempt to dislodge the item with your fingers. Just keep hitting their back. With each hit, a little air is going in.” It was that tiny gasp of air that would be trickling into AJ’s lungs that kept me going. Smack. A little trickle of air. Smack. Another trickle of air. Smack. More air.
I said a silent prayer. Please God don’t let my son die. And then, mid stroke I heard “Mummy look, it’s out!” AJ bent down to pick up the tiny black USB cover that had dislodged from his throat. I looked into his deep brown eyes and collapsed on the floor, out cold.
On the cold, hard tiles I came to. AJ was hovering over me, worry and fear in his eyes “Mummy ok?” I just grabbed him and hugged him so tight, in disbelief that we had done this. I had done this.
The greatest fear of any parent is losing their child. It is moments like these that we are tested most. I held in my hands the body of my son, being shaken with death. To this day my hands tremble with the memory. While we shower new parents with gifts of pastel pink or blue delights, the one thing we should give is the gift of First-Aid. It surpasses any pram, crocheted blanket, or toy. For without the knowledge I had gained from that course, I can’t say with confidence that my son would be here today.
Life is a heartbeat, pulsating in staccato. In a moment it can be gone.
Have you ever had a close call?
Caring for Kids is a first-aid course run by St. John’s Ambulance, especially for parents, grandparents, carers in the child care industry and members of the public who may be entrusted with the care of babies and children.