Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lulu and the Raisin

Sometimes a break is good. Unfortunately, it seems that the longer the break goes, the harder it becomes to get back into a routine. Today, I have a story important enough to overcome the "taking a break from blogging" inertia of 100 days away, and warrant getting back to this important part of my life. And it was all brought on by a raisin.

My sweet Lulu turned one last week. She finally started crawling at 11 months, and is wasting no time in covering all the ground she missed in the earlier months. She loves to crinkle her nose up and laugh; in fact, she has yet to meet a stranger.

Lulu chirps and squeaks more like a bird than a human baby. She is learning to make sounds like "oo", "ah", and "uh-oh". She calls for "da-da-da-da-da" all the time, and occasionally plays around with "ma-ma-ma". On her birthday she added a word, spoken in a stage whisper, "hot!" She also communicates by nodding and shaking her head at appropriate times, and signing a rough estimate of "all done" and "more".

In her first year, Lulu has avoided any major accidents, other than two bumps on the forehead--one thanks to each sibling. But yesterday, ten days after her birthday, we had one of those moments that reminded us how fragile life is.

The Raisin
Since she has turned one, I thought I would let Miss Lu try a cranberry raisin. She did well with it, so I placed a few more in front of her. She was sitting on my lap as I worked on the computer.

Suddenly I looked down and was horrified to realize she was choking. I instinctively swept her mouth, and felt the raisin. Unfortunately I only pushed it further down her throat. Later I learned a better way to deal with this situation. At that moment, I had a sick feeling I had just made a bad moment worse, and I started to panic as I began trying every technique I could to shake that raisin out of my now limp, turning blue child.

As God's grace worked, Justin walked in from an errand at that exact moment, and he took over sweeping her mouth and pumping her under the ribs, while directing me to call 911. I got on with the operator, who ordered the paramedics on their way while talking us through ways to get her breathing again.

After what seemed like forever but was probably less than two minutes, Justin announced she had taken a breath, but was still passed out. Following the dispatcher's directions, he laid her on the floor, tilted her head back, and looked for an obstruction. After another moment she quietly opened her eyes and began looking around. We all took a long, relieved, breath.

In one of life's odd quirks, the two older children chose that moment to make a dramatic appearance from upstairs, in princess dress and wrestling costume. They have not played dress-up in about a year. Why on earth do you suppose they chose that moment to pull out all the stops?

The paramedics arrived within three to five more minutes, an amazing response time considering they were at least three miles away. Numerous units were actually dispatched from two locations, which made for a lot of sirens coming from different directions on that strangely quiet Saturday afternoon.

There is a bizarre reality involved in watching a screaming firetruck drive up to your doorstep and disgorge three large, serious paramedics. A moment behind the truck, an ambulance arrived from the second location with three more large, serious paramedics.

The costumed children, mercifully oblivious to any threat involved in the situation, joyfully announced "the fire truck is coming to OUR house!" and treated the paramedics as an audience arrived just for them. Thankfully, the original panic was past, and El Misterio Rey & the Princess served as needed comic relief.

After listening to Lulu's lungs, the paramedic advised that she had likely swallowed the raisin instead of aspirating it, but gave us some symptoms to be on the watch for over the next couple days. After some paperwork, many words of thanks, and one more visitor in the form of a police officer, the hubbub died down and we moved on with our evening plans.

Later that Evening
Five hours later, after a fussy but mostly normal evening, Lulu made a strange cry from her carseat as we were returning home. We pulled into the driveway, checked her, thought she might be turning blue again, and pretty much freaked out.

I ran to my neighbor who is trained as an RN and tearfully begged her to sit with my kids until Justin's mom could arrive, and we tore off to the emergency room. The hours of waiting that followed were broken up by interviews with the triage nurse, a PA, a resident, the pediatric doctor, an x-ray, and several note-taking assistants.

By about 1am, we were home with assurances that she showed no signs of any damage beyond bruising and soreness, which would pass. She did have a fever, but it was decided that it was probably a coincidence due to her immunization shots 7 days previous.

Today she is a little more fussy than normal, but otherwise back to her usual self.

Lessons Learned

I have been paranoid about choking since Rooster was a baby. He has had three choking incidents, and I thought I had already educated myself about what to do in a crisis.

This incident left all the others behind.

In the future I will respond differently in a few ways:

First, call 911 first. It doesn't matter if I'm going to solve the problem before they get there. They need to be on their way.

Second, lay the child on her back, support behind the neck, and tilt up the head to search for obstructions. Do not sweep before looking.

Third, hold her upside down and perform jabbing blows to the back with the heel of my hand. Let gravity work.

All that fuss, for a dumb little raisin.

This was probably the scariest moment of my parenting life. Thank you Lord, for using a raisin to remind me that You are ultimately the holder of every life, and that I am just a steward of what You have given. Thank you for allowing me to keep what I have been given, to hold her for awhile longer.