This picture makes me cringe. It makes my heart hurt. It’s on my phone and I can’t stand to look at it, but I haven’t deleted it because of what it stands for.
It’s a moment in time. A happy moment that came less than a minute before something very scary.
We were with friends celebrating, and the girls had gotten a treat from the ice cream truck. The same treats they’d had before, many times. But this time, right after I took this photo, my daughter choked on the gumball that was one of the “eyes” on her ice cream treat.
It happened so fast, but in slow motion at the same time, as scary things often do. After I snapped the photo I turned around to talk with my friends, and I don’t remember who noticed her first, or if her sister tapped my shoulder, or what, but she was choking. I jumped up, got behind her, and did what I was supposed to do, try to give her the Heimlich Maneuver. I’d been taught how, years ago as a school teacher. But nothing happened. I remember holding her and doing it, but nothing was happening. So I started saying, “Nothing is happening, nothing is happening,” or something like that. I was starting to panic. What would happen if this didn’t work?
Suddenly I was pushed out of the way and my friend’s husband took my daughter from me. It seemed like just one jolt, but the gumball flew out, just like I’d seen on TV. She fell into my arms, and I was still so scared.
We drove home, and the whole way I felt high from the adrenaline rush. I told my husband what had happened, but since she was now running around playing like nothing had happened, he didn’t seem very concerned. Within the hour I had a big drop of adrenaline and started crying. The fear hit me hard. The whole incident could have gone so differently. My mind started racing–how fast would have an ambulance gotten there if we’d needed to call? What would have happened to her?
I remember thanking my friend’s husband in the moment, but I was more focused on my daughter. So in the days that followed, I thought about writing a thank you card–is that what you do in this situation? That didn’t seem like enough. It was so awkward that I don’t remember that I did anything. But he did something amazing. It was hard to just socialize with them for a few months, because this was A BIG DEAL and yet it wasn’t. Because we all watch each others’ kids and care for them and protect them as if they were our own. We all do.
PS–did you know that the Red Cross revised its guidelines on how to deal with conscious choking victims? No more Heimlich.