Monday, February 16, 2009

A bit of fear is good

After high school and during a couple of college summers, I worked for Six Flags near Los Angeles. The second summer, I ended up in Guest Relations at the new water park. It was a less-than-thrilling job but ideal for a carefree college kid.

At one point during the summer I decided to train to be a lifeguard. This was a big deal for me, as I am a land beast. My swimming skills were sufficient to save my own skin but not to save anyone else's. The idea scared me, so I chose to tackle it head-on.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first aid aspect of it, memorizing the ratios of chest compressions to airway ventilations for children and for adults, with two rescuers or with one. I missed one question on the written test and passed the CPR practical with a perfect score. I did not, however, become a fabulous swimmer. I certified to lifeguard in the shallower pools of the park and left the buff swimmers to save those in the wave pool.

I was quite proud of myself for doing something that frightened me. Since then, I have never used the lifeguarding skills in an emergency. And not one of my first aid courses over the years has compared to the militaristic lifeguard first aid. But those skills can come in handy.

Today I had a house full of rambunctious boys out of school due to the holiday. We had already visited the doctor and the pharmacy, thanks to a raging case of pink eye in my second child. The weather was just cold enough to make playing outside uncomfortable. Needless to say, I was ready for the day to be done. I heated up some hot dogs and served them to my crew.

Mealtime is an opportunity for me to get something done. I eat while standing up, folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, or whatever else needs to be finished. The boys are stationary for a moment and I must jump on the chance.

So I was in the basement when I heard coughing. I could tell from the timbre that it was my newly-three year old. I called up to my oldest whom I could trust to make a fair judgement:

"'T', is 'L' okay?"

A pause. Then, "Mom, you need to come up here RIGHT NOW!"

I took the stairs twenty at a time and found 'L' with his hands grabbing at his mouth. Sure enough, the lifeguard training kicked in. I became very calm. CLEAR MOUTH.

I reached in with my index finger and hooked out an enormous chunk of spit-sodden hot dog bun. I heard air moving down his throat and sighed in relief. He coughed and retched a little, then turned away. He took a few steps and I heard him gasp. Then I heard nothing. He whirled and threw himself at me, grabbing for me with those little hands.

I scooped him up and ran into the kitchen. I didn't know if he needed to throw up or if, heaven forbid, I needed to do abdominal thrusts (not p.c. to call them the Heimlich maneuver anymore.) I held him over the sink and tried to clear his mouth again. Nothing. He was still flailing so I knelt to the floor and held him upside down, over my knee, and whacked his back.

Kneeling in this position, it finally hit me that this was serious. I whacked him a few more times while trying to ignore the little voice that asked, what if I can't help him? What's going to happen? I tilted him back upright and POP! Out came a soggy yet solid pellet of hot dog bun. It was small, but it was the same round shape as his trachea.

He stopped flailing immediately and I held him tightly. My fingers tingled from the adrenaline. His lower lip jutted out and tears welled up in his eyes. Then came the understatement of the year,

"Mom, I just a lil' bit scared."

You and me both, kiddo.


Chris said...

Poor thing. That is scary. I am glad you both are ok. That is a mom's nightmare.

ctarbet said...

So scary!! I was on the phone with my sister last night and I had just served my kids hot dogs for dinner (Dave's out of town). My sister, who has a baby the same age as mine, said, "you don't cut it up for her? Aren't you afraid, she'll choke?" My reply was, "Not really." Thanks to your story, I'm now afraid!! And sounds like his was mostly bun, not even hot dog!! Glad you were able to save him, for sure!!

Jodi said...

Oh Lauren!!! So scary. I've got tears in my eyes just reading about it. Nice job!

Sally said... just lived one of my worst nightmares! I'm so glad he is ok - way to keep a cool head through it all.

Tracie said...

YOU ROCK!!! And tears were present here too! You never cease to amaze me! Most of your posts have me with tears in my eyes, but that's cuz I just plain luv your guts :)