My daughter choked during dinner last Wednesday. That was most definitely the scariest moment of my life.
Everything was fine that day until she came down with a fever in the afternoon. Just 102.5. Not too high. My mom and I gave her and Okra dinner at 6ish like usual. Tofu, vegetables, and naan were on the menu. Those were things that she had had many times. We had just served the food to the kids. I turned around to get something from the kitchen counter and heard my mom yell out my daughter’s name in a frantic tone of voice and ask her what was wrong. I will never forget what I saw. Bunny, who was sitting in her highchair, was staring straight with a dazed look. Her face had turned blue. She was gripping my mom’s fingers shaking. My first thought was febrile seizure. I quickly took her out of her highchair, held her in my arms, and grabbed my phone. I dialed 911 with my shaky hands and told the operator that my 18-month-old might be having a febrile seizure. Bunny’s body and arms were limp and her hands had also turned dark and blue. She wasn’t making any sounds and was looking lifeless to me.
At that very moment, I really thought that we were going to lose her.
The 911 operator said that emergency medical services were on their way. She asked me if my baby was breathing. I checked but found it hard to tell if she was or not. I think I detected very shallow breathing. In those few seconds, I realized that Bunny was actually choking on whatever she was eating. I yelled at the phone that she was choking, put the call on speaker, and tried to do what I remembered from the infant CPR class to try to dislodge whatever that got stuck. I started to panic. I totally forgot what I was supposed to do with a child over one year old. All I could remember was the back blows. I tried to do that a few times. The operator heard me and told me not to pat her back. I was just desperate to get whatever it was out. In those chaotic moments, I somehow managed to dislodge the object from her throat. Broken pieces of tofu came out of her mouth. Bunny started making whimpering sounds. Her face was still blue but she looked like she was about to cry. I kept on asking if her whimpering was a good sign. The 911 operator assured me that it was. Bunny just looked so weak and her face was still kind of blue. It was just so scary to not know if she was okay. The operator stayed on the line until help came. That phone call lasted six minutes, which meant the ambulance and fire truck arrived within five minutes.
Once the EMS team arrived, I immediately felt more relieved that Bunny would be in good hands. I quickly told them the situation. These four team members checked on her vitals and placed a piece of wet cloth on her back to lower her body temperature. Initially Bunny’s O2 was at about 80. Her heart rate and blood pressure were up. The team advised me to give her medication to treat the fever, and told me that a febrile seizure would have lasted longer than a few seconds. So it was truly a choking incident. They examined the pieces of tofu and said that it could have been cut smaller. I think what happened was Bunny had been able to handle the sizes of the food by taking bites. However, that day she was probably out of it because of her sickness and instead of taking bites, she just straight swallowed the food.
During this whole time, Okra was so good. He sat in his highchair and finished eating his dinner without making any noises. He just stared at all the commotion unfolding in front of him. Prior to that, he had been very whiny. Kids have such great instincts. They know that something unusual is up.
The EMS team watched Bunny and waited until her vitals were up to normal. They said that despite looking a little upset, the coloring of her face became normal again. She was breathing normally and started to cry because her toe was clipped to the wire that connected to the machine. She looked good. I was advised to take her to the emergency room just in case she aspirated on any of the food. Since Bunny started to act and look normal again, I opted to take her to the hospital myself. Bob at that time was still on his way home. The closest emergency room doesn’t have pediatrics, so I decided to take her to the one that is farther away, about a 17-minute drive.
While my mom changed Bunny’s clothes, I quickly packed her diaper bag with milk, water, toys, book, and some food. I hadn’t had dinner myself so I packed a breakfast bar. I tried calling Bob on the phone but it went to voicemail. I checked “Find My Friends” and saw that he was about to be home. So I went to the window and saw that he parked his car. I waved at him to come to the house quickly. Later he told me that he thought the ambulance and the fire truck were for our next door neighbors, and his first thought was to notify Bunny and Okra to go to the window to watch the trucks. Little did he know that the emergency vehicles were for our house. I guess you never expect anything bad to happen to you or your own family.
Leaving my son with my mom (I am so super thankful for her), Bob and I took Bunny to the emergency room. My little girl looked a little dazed in the car seat. When we arrived, it was almost her bed time, at around 7:20pm. We waited in line for about ten minutes before someone checked us in. After getting her rectal temperature (poor girl), her vitals, and her weight, we waited in the waiting room for a doctor. The waiting room was full of people. It was definitely a busy night. There were quite a few young children as well. We fed Bunny a few snacks and gave her some milk. I tried to put her to sleep since it was way past bed time. She just looked more and more alert and playful as the night went on. She was singing, reading, playing peekaboo with a little baby, and chatting away instead of falling asleep tired. Both Bob and I were yawning our heads off.
Finally, at 9:40pm, Bunny’s name was called. We were led to a room. In that room, we waited for another 30 minutes. On TV, a show about elephants in Africa was playing. Good thing Bunny wasn’t paying attention to it all the time. All of a sudden it was showing headless and bloody elephants on the screen. I quickly asked Bob to switch the channels. At the same time, what sounded like a psychiatric patient kept yelling and cursing outside in the hall to ask for her phone back so that she could contact her family. There was a lot of commotion. And Bunny was still very awake. At 10:10pm, a pregnant doctor came in to check on Bunny. She listened to Bunny’s lungs. Everything checked out fine so a chest X-ray wasn’t necessary. After the nurse checked Bunny’s rectal temperature (ouch, again) and her vitals and got her nasal swab for Influenza A, as well as administered a dose of Tylenol for her fever, we waited for another 15 minutes before we got the discharge summary and were allowed to leave.
We walked out at 10:40pm of the emergency room in the crispness of the night. We looked up and saw an almost full moon with the lights of airplanes and stars in the dark sky. Bunny pointed and exclaimed at these things that she never had a chance to see in the past. My heart was full of gratitude that Bob and I got to share this magical moment with our daughter looking at the moon and the stars instead of having the unthinkable happen earlier that evening.
That night Bunny slept in the Pack N Play in our room. In bed when I closed my eyes, all I saw was Bunny’s blue face with her eyes staring straight during her choking episode. Hearing her talk in her sleep (and then Bob talk in his sleep), I couldn’t help but shudder at the what-ifs. What if my mom was the only person home with the kids? What if she tried to call me but couldn’t find me? What if I couldn’t dislodge the food from Bunny’s throat? This forces me not to be complacent anymore. We will have to find out how to train my mom to call 911 and what to say on the phone call if something happens. We will have to think about which ER to go to for better and faster services for kids. We also have to review how to perform infant first aid for choking again. I started to cut the food for the kids back to smaller sizes like they were younger as I am paranoid at the thought of this happening again.
I didn’t cry that night. I think I was probably still in shock. I keep on seeing her blue face in my mind whenever I close my eyes or when I have a moment to think. Friday night at bed time, I finally broke down and cried. I was so scared of losing my daughter that I fought so hard to have. I just couldn’t bear to think about the what-ifs. Bob was right though. Because God is in control, Bunny is alive and well on this earth. This incident teaches me that life is fragile and can change at anytime, and we have to appreciate one another and cherish the good and the bad moments with your loved ones.
I hope I never have to see that blue face again.