'We were at a family dinner when my daughter suddenly went from coughing to choking.'

It was New Year’s Eve 2017. My family sat around the table eating, drinking and laughing, (three of my favourite things) in the warm summer evening. It was seemingly the perfect end to an imperfect year.

2017 was one that had been marred by many emotional upheavals, traumatic events and to be honest, just really bad luck for my family and I. I was so glad it was nearly over. As we sat there I thought to myself ‘at least it’s a positive farewell’; I should have known then that something was bound to go wrong.

I watched my youngest daughter, Milla pick up a piece of chicken off her plate and pop it into her mouth. It was one of those little diced pieces that are spiked onto kebab skewers making them the perfect size for a three and a half-year-old without us having to cut it up for her.

For safety, the chicken had been removed from the skewer in attempt to prevent her from stabbing herself (or someone else which was probably more likely). I thought I had health and safety covered but the danger wasn’t the pointy wooden stick, it was what I had taken off it.

10 seconds later Milla began to cough, or at least that’s what I had thought was what was happening. But after a few more seconds, I realised that her cough was not a cough, but rather, her choking.

what to do when a child is chokingwhat to do when a child is choking
"After a few more seconds I realised that her cough was not a cough, but rather, her choking." Image: Supplied.

I looked at Milla, her face was scrunched up in discomfort, her pupils were dilated in shock, her hands held onto her throat as if she was trying to claw out what was stuck in there; she was struggling to move this piece of chicken upward or downward and the distress it was causing her was very apparent.

With that motherly gut reaction that had only been ignited a handful of times prior to this and never with anything so serious, I stood up and ran toward where Milla was sitting, bent her over and gave her a series of short, sharp blows on her back right between her shoulder blades. After about three rounds of these out came the piece of poorly chewed chicken, landing back onto her dinner plate. There was never a time where I had been so glad to see such a disgusting piece of semi-regurgitated food.


About three weeks prior, I was in a much different scenario. It was in a conference room at an old bowling club with a handful of other adults from various workplaces completing a first aid and CPR course. I hadn’t chosen to do this, it was a compulsory professional development day that I had missed at my workplace on my day off, so I was sent off to complete it here.

At the time I had deemed it unnecessary, I mean how many people’s lives was I going to save in the marketing office? But (luckily) because I am a complete nerd once the learning had begun, I took it all very seriously and by conscientiousness kicked in. I didn’t think I’d ever have to use much of what I had learnt but it felt empowering to walk out knowing that if something did happen, I would be at least moderately equipped to handle it. (And just quietly as an overachiever, it felt gratifying to ace my first aid test!)

Lifesaver, Belinda Hartman runs us through the basics of performing CPR on kids. 

Video by MWN

One of the components of the course was what to do if someone was choking. They went through the procedure for babies, children and adults because each age group requires a different technique. I took particular attention at what to do for children because I had my own two girls whom I was responsible for keeping alive. We had some child dummies to practice on and each of the first aid rookies in the room had a turn. Little did I know at the time that in a few short weeks, I’d be implementing this on an actual human being, and not just any human but employing this life saving technique on my own daughter.

After a big drink of water and a couple of minutes to recover from the shock of not being able to breathe and having someone hit her back with reasonable force, Milla picked up her fork and finished her dinner without any real awareness of what had just happened or what could have happened. That awareness was just left for the adults at the table who all took away a new respect and understanding of the importance of first aid that day.

So this year as I walk into my refresher first aid class, I will do so without any reservations because what is more valuable than spending your time learning skills that can potentially save your own child’s life?

Have you ever had to administer first aid? Tell us in the comments section.