"TODAY we nearly lost Grace …" Kerry can't say those words without trembling at the unbearable thought of what could have been.
"One minute it was just a normal morning - the next it was almost forever changed,' the mum-of-three says when retelling the horror that was Wednesday.
"Grace isn't allowed hard lollies. We cut her grapes in half because we are careful of choking hazards and we make sure to remind her to chew before she swallows. We've never had a problem before today."
Yet the day in question nearly ended the four-year-old girl's life from that very hazard.
Grace asked her mother for one of her 16-year-old sister's eucalyptus lollies.
"I explained she couldn't as she could choke and she had to wait until she was a bit bigger. I said she could taste a shard that had broken off in the bag instead," her mum says.
Grace thought that meant she could have one and popped a lolly in her mouth.
"Next thing I knew she followed me into the lounge room clutching at her throat - the lolly had lodged in her airways and she couldn't get any air in or out. She had a complete obstruction. I called to her older sister Tahya who immediately rang an ambulance," Kerry says.
"I encouraged Gracie to stay calm and try to cough as hard as she could while I held her over my lap with one knee dropped with her face down on an angle and I thumped her hard five times on the back. I then turned her over and did chest thrusts and kept repeating the same steps."
It was at this point that Kerry thought she had lost her little girl forever.
"I told her we could fix it but she lost consciousness and turned blue. So I turned her back over to her stomach and hit her back hard again one more time when she suddenly took a rattly intake of air and started to turn purple. As she got some air back in and was taking rattly breathes she then coughed and swallowed and started to recover," she explains to Kidspot.
"She was nearly in heaven but then she started to cry - she didn't want to leave us. Tahya was praying out loud while she was on the phone to emergency services until the ambulance arrived and both of us almost collapsed in relief."
After a short stint in hospital to check her vital signs and have a chest X-ray, Grace went back home as her "happy and joyful" self again.
"We are grateful more than words can express that we are blessed enough to have her come back from that horrible brink - something so simple, something you don't expect," Kerry says.
"They told Gracie I had saved her life but it was a group effort with Tahya staying calm and relaying all the information to emergency services and supporting us, leaving me able to render first aid to Grace."
Kerry says learning what to do in an emergency choking situation while she was doing a first aid course just before Grace was born really helped her during the shocking ordeal.
"I want people to be aware that even as kids get older, choking is still a very real risk and it's important to update your first aid training. And to also make sure hard round lollies are out of reach from temptation," she says.
"I'm just so glad to be able to share this as a near-miss to warn others and not as a mummy whose world just ended."
Signs and symptoms of choking:
- clutching the throat
- coughing, wheezing, gagging
- difficulty breathing, speaking, swallowing
- making a whistling or 'crowing' noise or no sound at all
- face, neck, lips, ears, fingernails turning blue
What to do if someone is choking:
1. Encourage the adult or child to cough to remove the object
2. Call triple zero (000) if coughing does not remove the blockage,
or if patient is an infant
3. Bend the patient well forward and give up to five back blows with the heel of one hand between the shoulder blades, checking if the object is relieved after each back blow
4. If unsuccessful, give up to five chest thrusts by placing one hand in the middle of patient's back for support and heel of other hand in the CPR compression position, checking if the object is relieved after each chest thrust
5. If blockage does not clear continue alternating five back blows with five chest thrusts until medical aid arrives.
If the patient becomes unconscious:
- Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance
- Remove any visible obstructions from the mouth
- Commence CPR.
Source: St John
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