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April 21, 2012

I nearly lost Mary today. She is fine now, tucked safely in her crib for the night. But there was a moment today when that outcome looked unlikely.

It was sheer terror. All the ways the doctors have been telling me I would lose my baby girl, I really never thought it could happen like this, on the side of a busy city road. We were driving towards Costco. I was dictating a shopping list to my husband while the kids carried on their constant banter in the back seat.

Then I heard Mary gag. It sounded like she might vomit. My husband turned around in his seat to get a better look. It happened very, very fast, but it felt like slow motion.

We both knew what was happening. Mary has been chewing on her hearing aids, and often sucking the ear molds right off and chewing on them (for those unfamiliar with hearing aids, the molds ae the silicon part that fit the inside of your ear- perfectly chewy texture).

She was choking.

She was turning blue as I veered the car onto the sidewalk and slammed it into park.

I jumped out and fumbled to open the back door. I started pressing on her stomach- just below her rib cage while she was still in her seat. During previous choking incidents, this has been sufficient, but there was a very small amount of air whistling around the ear mold, and it wouldn’t budge.

By now, Mary was going limp. I pulled her out of her car seat and started pounding on her back, while telling my husband to “call someone, call 911!” He quickly grabbed Mary from my arms and said he dropped his phone, so I called, while he pounded on her back while propping her face downward on his arm. As the operator came on the line, the ear mold fell out of her mouth, and Mary gasped for breath. There was no hiding the panic in our voices and the shaking of our hands from our other children at that point. I thanked the operator and told her that we were ok, as my husband hugged his baby girl with everything he had.

It was a horrific feeling, watching my child struggle for breath, turn blue and go limp within just a few seconds. All the worry, all the testing meant nothing at that moment. This life is so fragile, and it can be taken in a heartbeat- literally. At the end of the day it is really out of our control.

A while ago, I wrote this to a friend who was struggling with an unknown future for her own child. It can change so fast. We worry so much about a disease or syndrome taking them from us, when it could just as easily be a car accident or choking on a hearing aid. I also wrote this, about enjoying each moment right now, because none of it is guaranteed. I think I just relearned that lesson today. It just so happens that plans for that Disney trip (the one I talked about in that post) are in the works for Mary’s birthday – and no, she won’t be allowed to have her hearing aids on in the car on the ride there.

Please take a minute and refresh yourself on simple first aid for children who are choking:
Click here.

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard
Everybody’s got their share of battle scars
As for me, I’d like to thank my lucky stars
That I’m alive and well

It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain
But not me, I’m alive

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing, can’t you see?
Today’s the first day of the rest of my life
And I’m alive and well
I’m alive and well

Stars are dancin’ on the water here tonight
It’s good for the soul when there’s not a soul in sight
This boat has caught its wind and brought me back to life
Now I’m alive and well

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathing in and out’s a blessing, can’t you see?
Today’s the first day of the rest of my life
Now I’m alive and well
Yeah, I’m alive and well

I’m Alive lyrics
Songwriters: Chesney, Kenneth A.; Dillon, Dean; Tamburino, Mark; Featuring: Dave Matthews

Now, go hug your kids.

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