Nothing can fully prepare a parent for the day their child starts choking, but a little first aid training can go a long way. And that's the message one mom is sending after saving her son from choking on a piece of apple. Courtney Patterson-Manfredi shared the terrifying story of her son's choking incident on Instagram last week and is now urging parents to learn infant first aid, CPR, and, specifically, how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on little ones.
Last week, the Kansas mom's 8-month-old son Stelio was snacking on a large piece of apple in the kitchen while she took care of some dishes in the sink. Then, she heard him struggling to breathe. "I immediately turned to him sweeping him off the floor and patting him on the back," she wrote on Instagram. "I could see that was not clearing his airway. I put him on my knee and started back blows. I knew not to finger sweep his mouth for the fear of further lodging the object in his airway."
When she wasn't immediately able to find her phone, Patterson-Manfredi asked her older child to go and get a nearby nurse while she located her cell and called 911. Her daughter was too frightened to go for help and the 911 operators didn't get to the phone within five rings. Fortunately, though, Patterson-Manfredi was able to dislodge the piece of apple in time.
"I panicked and hung up on 911 before they answered. This all happened in what felt like 10 minutes but was 2 minutes," she wrote. While mom and daughter were more than a little shaken up, Stelio was "wide-eyed and calm," thanks to Patterson-Manfredi's quick action.
Speaking with Romper about the experience, Patterson-Manfredi, a family trained nurse practitioner, underlined the importance of pediatric first aid and CPR training for parents and caregivers. "No parent believes this will happen to them or their child," she says. "I challenge parents to ask themselves if your baby stopped breathing, would you know what to do?"
Patterson-Manfredi urges to take a first aid class or head over to YouTube to learn more about CPR and the Heimlich. The Mayo Clinic has an informative tutorial video on how to help a choking infant with the Heimlich, while CPR Kids TV has a video on CPR and choking first aid for babies and children.
Despite her prompt response and medical background, Patterson-Manfredi, who undergoes bi-annual CPR training for her job, says she struggled to maintain her calm. But by keeping a clear and focused head, she was able to save her son. "It is hard to stay calm even being trained," she admits, "but I knew I was the only one that could help him at that time."
Along with first aid and CPR training, Patterson-Manfredi urges parents to take additional precautions to prevent choking. Choking is the fourth leading cause of death in children under the age of 5, according to the National Council on Children's Safety, as she pointed out, and that can be from food, toys, and household items. For that reason, Patterson-Manfredi recommends parents "be in the room with your child while they are eating, scan the floors and shelves when your child is on the floor playing, and make sure you refresh yourself on CPR for your loved ones. It only takes seconds for your life to change." Cutting foods into very small pieces and ensuring that they are not choking hazards, such as candy or whole grapes, is key as well, as KidsHeath advises.
Despite the scare, Stelio is fortunately doing just fine now. "He is back to his normal self and was almost immediately after," Patterson-Manfredi says. Thank goodness for that — and for mom's training!