The story of three-year-old Alby Davis hit close to home for a number of parents last week. The little boy from Tasmania died after choking on a bouncy ball just before his fourth birthday.
His mum, Anna Davis, was with him, and performed CPR on him for sixteen minutes until the ambulance arrived. The ball was the size of a fifty cent piece.
In an Instagram post, Anna said she tried everything she could think of to get the ball out of her son’s throat.
To discuss how other parents could avoid this tragedy, Mamamia‘s parenting podcast This Glorious Mess sat down with Sarah Hunstead, paediatric nurse and founder of CPR Kids, a company that specialises in providing first aid knowledge to parents.
Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo speak to an expert in children’s first aid. Post continues…
This Glorious Mess’ host Holly Wainwright said it’s important to note that no one is suggesting Alby’s mum didn’t do everything right, or that she didn’t do enough.
“The reality is, accidents absolutely happen,” she said.
So when they do, Hunstead advised how anyone standing by can help.
“The first thing you need to do is remain calm. As parents, if something happens to our kids, our immediate reaction is to panic.”
The best way to avoid panicking? “By knowing what to do,” she said.
For this reason, a first aid course is an absolute must for every parent.
Hunstead explained that choking can be divided into three stages.
“Firstly, what you’re going to do is have a look at them. If they have a strong, effective cough: this means can they get air in and get a good strong effective cough out, you’re going to encourage them to keep coughing.”
She suggested that if you can see the cause of the choking in the front of the mouth, and it can be easily removed, to do so.
“But don’t do a big finger sweep. We don’t want to push anything that’s at the back further down.”
Hunstead knows this not only from her training, but from personal experience.
“When my daughter choked on a rice cracker that I could actually see in the back of her throat, if I’d have attempted to remove it, I probably would have pushed it further down.”
Darling Alby, Today, despite the fact you are no longer with us, we celebrate and honour your fourth sunshine journey. Your daddy and I visited you this morning, holding your hands and stroking your hair, for what I wish could have been an eternity. We placed your much-longed for gift – a waterproof watch with a light – around your tiny little wrist, and tried not to shower you with too many tears as we painted your fingernails with your favourite gold glitter polish. Time spent with you is never enough and leaving without you by our side, summons the most unbearable pain we’ve ever had to endure. Our arms are yearning for the thousands of cuddles yet to be given, our ears are longing for your laughter to once again resound through the walls of our home, and our hearts are shattered for the millions of memories we’ll never have the chance to create. We, along with the world, are weeping, but we take solace in the fact that all you ever knew, in your almost-four-years, was nothing but love. We are eternally grateful for the abundant light you bought to our lives and now know that your purpose was so much higher than any of us ever anticipated. Happy birthday sweetheart. We miss you endlessly ♥️
The next stage is what to do if the child isn’t getting enough air.
“If a child has an ineffective cough, or they’re silent, that means that their airway is completely obstructed. This means they’re not able to get air in or out.”
Hunstead explained there are two actions that can help in that situation: back blows, and chest thrusts.
“A back blow is a firm blow between the shoulder blades. Do up to five of those.”
“If that hasn’t helped, we’re going to turn them around and do chest thrusts: a short, sharp thrust on the centre of their chest. Not on their tummy.”
The idea is to alternate between the actions, five at a time, until the object comes out. But if the child becomes unconscious, it’s time to start CPR.
“We want to get blood circulating around to buy us time until the paramedics get there.”
So when do you call an ambulance?
Hunstead said if she saw her child choking on a piece of toast, she would do five back blows.
“If that object hasn’t come out after my fifth back blow, I’m definitely getting 000 on my phone.”
Hunstead also suggested shouting for help, getting anyone to help you while you start to do chest thrusts. But parents know their children best, so if there’s ever any doubt, the safest course of action is to call for help.
As we learnt from little Alby’s case, accidents can happen even when parents are in the same room, so the best we can do is to support each other by sharing knowledge.
Listen to the full episode of our podcast for imperfect parents.
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