by Emily Reed
When Lani Meek signed up for a CPR training class before the birth of her first son, she had no idea the tips covered in the class would eventually save her child’s life.
“I, like any first-time parent, wanted to make sure I was prepared for everything,” Meek says. “I am a teacher, and I had students who had different medical needs, so I knew the importance of knowing first aid.
“I realized when I got pregnant with my first child that I was not totally prepared in terms of knowing how to perform CPR. I saw an advertisement in our church bulletin one day of a CPR class being offered, so I decided to take it with my husband,” she explains.
Meek took the class, and placed a pamphlet about ways to handle choking on the inside of her kitchen pantry in case there was ever a need. “I think with any parent you always think it will never happen to you,” Meek says. “Learning CPR is something that you are thankful you know, but you think in the back of your mind that you won’t ever really need to put it into practice.”
Shortly after her son turned a year old, Meek let him have a miniature vanilla wafer to eat as he sat roughly two feet away from her while she washed dishes in the family’s kitchen.
“I noticed shortly after I had given him the wafer that he was not making any noise,” Meek says. “I looked over at him and noticed he was looking at me with panic in his face. He was not blue, but he was definitely getting there. I flipped him over and immediately did the Heimlich maneuver. I really just went into instinct mode. I told my husband to call 911, which we he did, but after three times of performing the Heimlich we were able to get the wafer dislodged, and everything was fine. I think because we took the CPR class we were able to stay really calm, and focus on getting the piece of food dislodged from our son’s throat,” she adds.
Meek is just one of many parents opting to learn infant and children CPR, as children commonly choke on toys, food, or small objects they place in their mouths.
“We have a lot of new moms that hear about things that can happen where a child can be in distress, and they do not want to be caught unaware,” says Debbie Moss, a CPR instructor with the American Heart Association. “It is something that you really don’t want to be ill-equipped in knowing because the chances of a child choking are really common, and it can happen so easily.”
Moss offers free CPR classes at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. “The training we offer is if a situation comes up where the infant’s heart stops, or they get choked, the parents will then know what to do,” Moss explains. “The classes oftentimes have a lot of new parents, but we also have parents who are looking for a refresher if they are having another child, babysitters, grandparents, or anyone who is in the position of taking care of a child.”
Moss says the class she offers is not a certification course, but most parents do not need to be certified, they just need to be knowledgeable about what to do.
“If it is your child, you will do whatever you can to make sure they are OK,” Moss adds. “I obviously hope with each class I teach that the information I am going over will never be needed on a child, but after each class session wraps up we always pray that we will be able to recall everything we have learned in the class if the need comes up.”
A free CPR class available at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church will be April 26 from 6-7 p.m. Anyone interested in attending the course should call the church at 871-7324 to make a reservation.
In a video distributed by Children’s of Alabama on choking, Debbie Coshatt, a nurse educator in the patient’s health and safety department at the hospital, identified ways to determine if a child is choking. Those signs include:
- A child is turning blue or pale.
- A child opens his mouth and cannot breathe, talk or cough.
- Showing the universal sign for choking, which is when a child holds the neck with one or both hands.
Coshatt demonstrates in the video that, for anyone suspected of choking over the age of 1, to place hands above their belly button, make a fist, and do inward and upward motions. “You are coughing for that person,” Coshatt explains in the video. “You keep doing that until the object comes out. A lot of parents are oftentimes too gentle when doing this, but it is better to be firm and potentially break a rib, because you are saving a life.”
Tips to help avoid a child choking include making sure kids eat while seated, and avoid laughing or talking when eating. Also, do not give children under 5 hard candy or nuts, and when feeding children foods such as hot dogs, carrots or grapes, cut them lengthwise and crosswise.
Barrie Woods, CPR coordinator for the city of Hoover, says people never know when they will need to perform CPR. “It can be on a child, or even an adult,” Woods says. “You could be at a store and find someone in need of CPR, and have to act in an instant. The skills you learn are not just for your family, they can be used on anyone.”
Woods helps teach classes offered through Hoover Fire Department to members of the community as well as health care providers. “We have found time and time again that people are able to help save lives after they learn how to properly administer CPR,” Woods adds.
The Hoover Fire Department offers American Heart Association CPR certification classes for the general public during the first, second and third Saturdays of each month. The classes are held at Hoover Fire Station No. 7, located at 100 Inverness Parkway, off of Valleydale Road near Highway 280. There is a $15 registration fee, and class size is limited to 20 individuals each session.
“We have babysitters, coaches, teachers, fitness instructors, scout leaders and parents take the course,” Woods says. “The classes are always well-attended.”
For more information about the class, call 444-7683 or email email@example.com.
“When my second child was born, I took a CPR class again because I wanted to brush up on the things I learned when I had my first child,” Meeks says. “If it is not something you are doing every day, you have a tendency to put it in the back of your mind, but it is such an important thing to know. When the situation came up where my first child was choking, I could hear the words of the information I had learned in the class in my head as the situation was going on and I believe that allowed me to focus on making sure my child was OK.”
To locate a CPR course in the area, visit redcross.org/local/alabama or check with local fire departments and hospitals.
Emily Reed is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to her son, Tobias.