We wish it didn't happen but it does.
A baby swallows a penny while playing with a wallet. A toddler slips under the pool's surface unnoticed for too long. A child gets a chunk of food stuck in his throat during dinner time. I've experienced some of these moments with my two young sons. Thankfully, they've come out of the situations unharmed, but I was left utterly shaken.
I learned some lifesaving techniques during lifeguard training when I was a teenager, but that was more than 20 years ago. When an accident happens, do we know what to do? Should all parents refresh our past knowledge and be comfortable with at-home lifesaving techniques?
"Every family should have somebody trained in basic first aid and CPR skills," says Paul Shipman, spokesperson for the American Red Cross in Connecticut, which teaches approximately 120,000 people each year in a variety of safety procedures. The "basic level" class for the "average everyday responder" is offered all around the state each month and results in a certification that is valid for two years. Joe Lodge teaches the 3-1/2 class and says parents shouldn't put it off because we are too busy.
"Bottom line is, yes, you should make the time," he says. "Some of parents' natural instincts are a lot of what we do teach when it comes to choking situations," but it's important for us to know the proper technique of five back blows followed by five abdominal thrusts so that we don't cause further damage.
The class also covers both adult and infant CPR, which begins with a sequence called: "check, call, care."
Often during an emergency, onlookers shy away from getting involved. "One of the top fears that people have for barriers are usually not knowing exactly what to do or making the situation worse," says Lodge, who believes that learning solid steps will offset feelings of panic. Lodge, a teacher for 12 years, leads his students through a repetitive pattern of 30 chest compressions and two subsequent rescue breaths on adult and baby mannequins.
"Just enough to make the chest rise," says Lodge, as he watches his students find a pace that could keep a body alive and prevent brain damage. He also introduces an AED — automated external defibrillator — which can now be found in many public places. While it appears daunting, with sticky pads and plugs, this talking machine literally walks users through commands to restore heart rhythm with electric shock. Free, printable brochures and a new smartphone app, both available at redcross.org, should be reviewed each month so techniques remain familiar.
I participated in an evening session and feel so much more prepared to tackle any unforeseen emergency involving my loved ones.
"A few hours of training can really make a lifesaving difference," says Shipman. We make plans for fires and storms. We protect our homes with alarms and fences. Why not take precautions to keep our kids' bodies safe as well?