Detroit mother Emma Carver was looking at some cheese in the grocery store when she heard her 2-year-old son making choking noises from the shopping cart. Ayyan Umar had snuck two grapes while Carver wasn’t looking, and now he was struggling to breath.
â€œI was feeling like maybe it was a bad dream, maybe somebody gonna wake me up.â€
“I even threw the cheese down and I started banging on him,” Carver told local news station WXYZ. “But it wasn’t getting it out, so it had to be lodged.” Nearby shoppers jumped in to help, calling 911 and trying CPR. But by the time emergency medical services arrived about six minutes later, the toddler was gone.
“I was feeling like maybe it was a bad dream,” his father Mohammad Umar told WXYZafterwards. “I see him everywhere.”
The family’s devastating heartache could have happened to anyone. Grapes, nuts, candy, hot dogs and popcorn all pose a major risk to kids younger than 4 years old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even if parents know to keep them away from young children, sometimes older siblings do not, or in this particular case, a toddler tries them when the parent’s momentarily distracted.
Despite the unthinkable tragedy happening just a week ago, Ayyan’s parents are taking time to encourage other parents to learn from this moment. Carver informedWXYZ that they’ve signed up to take a first aid class and advise other people to do the same.
The American Red Cross offers both in-person and online training for adult and pediatric first aid and CPR. For choking, the organization offers different advice based on the age of the child.
For infants under the age of 1, hold the baby face down on your forearm, using your thigh for support, the Mayo Clinic advises. Then gently but firmly thump the infant five times on the center of the back using the heal of your hand. That should dislodge the object. Switch and hold the infant face up, using two fingers to give five chest compressions at the center of the infant’s breastbone. Repeat those two steps if breathing doesn’t resume. Begin CPR if child becomes unresponsive.
For adults and children older than 1, you can use a similar “five-and-five” approach, alternating between five back blows and five abdominal thrusts. To give the thrusts (also known as performing the Heimlich maneuver), you should stand behind the person, wrap your arms around the waist and tip them slightly forward. Then place one fist just above the belly button, and grasp your fist with the other hand. Press hard into the stomach quickly, like you’re trying to lift them up.
Giving preliminary care – ideally while someone else is calling 911 – right away is important, since choking cuts off oxygen to the brain. And while you hope you’ll never need to use it, receiving professional first aid training can help you prepare for the unexpected.