16 Minutes

Last night I experienced the longest 16 minutes of my entire life.  My baby niece, Charlotte, put a toy road construction cone into her mouth where it became lodged in her airway.  My sister lives just down the hill from me, in fact, our backyards meet.  I’ve written out the timeline because while it was all happening, it didn’t feel like it was real.  That I wasn’t really standing in the yard holding my niece who was covered in sick and her own blood, waiting for an ambulance.  All while my five-year-old niece was hysterically following me around half-praying and half-screaming to me that “Charlotte can’t die!!!” Adrenaline is amazing, because it allowed me to check out of that situation enough to get things accomplished.  It made minutes last hours.

7:46 – Lisa calls me and I can hear it in her voice, a very panicky “Come NOW” is all she says and I run (like the wind) down the hill to her house where I meet Audrie at the back door who is crying and screaming to me that she doesn’t want Charlotte to die.   I had no idea what had happened.
I ran into the bathroom where I found Charlotte barely breathing (her breathing sounded very raspy as she was either breathing around the toy, or through the hole in it).  She had been throwing up and the toy was cutting her throat causing blood to come out of her nose.  She wasn’t crying, but it was because she couldn’t breathe enough to cry, she was standing up inside the tub looking at me, trying to breath, wanting to cry, unable to really do either one.   Audrie is kneeling next to me at the tub, still crying and screaming that she doesn’t want Charlotte to die.  Lisa is telling me to call “someone” and I ask “who, like Mom?  Or 911?” She replies with “I don’t care, just call somebody” It was then that Charlotte’s airway became fully blocked for a second and she wasn’t breathing, that I realized I needed to call 911 immediately.  In hindsight, of COURSE I should have called 911. For a bit I was beating myself up over not realizing that sooner, but when we realized that only one minute passed between her calling me initially, and me calling 911, I realized that I didn’t contemplate it for as long as I had imagined. 
7:47 I took Lisa’s phone and dialed 911.  As it rang, I realized that I didn’t know their address and so I walked outside on the porch so that I could find their house number.  Audrie has followed me out and is still hysterical, but starts yelling at me that I need to put the phone on speaker, because her mom’s phone won’t work unless it’s on speaker.  911 answers and I am telling them the situation “We have a baby who is choking on a toy, she’s 9 months old” and they asked me for my phone number – this wasn’t my phone and in this day of cell phones, I don’t have my sister’s number memorized.  But since the phone is on speaker, Audrie knows what they are asking for.  Through her hysteria, she starts screaming out the phone number. I ask her to calm down and repeat it into the phone, which she does.  (Awesome!!)
Unknown time – maybe still 7:47 or maybe 7:48 I go back into the bathroom where Charlotte’s situation is the same.  Very raspy and labored breathing mixed with occasional split seconds of not breathing at all.  She still isn’t turning blue and her face is only slightly red, so I know that she is getting oxygen, but I’m just not sure how long before the toy lodges itself just right and blocks her breathing entirely.  Lisa leaves the bathroom to change into regular clothes while Audrie and I are in the bathroom while Audrie begins to pray “We really NEED a miracle” she would say, mixed still with uncontrollable crying and “I don’t want Charlotte to die” Charlotte is still having a VERY hard time breathing, not much air is getting in – so I decide to grab her and take her out on the front lawn to wait for the ambulance.
While in the yard, she begins mixing between not breathing at all and even more labored breathing.  I just keep telling her “keep breathing, baby. Keep breathing.” A fire truck arrived first (why do they send fire trucks? But I don’t care.) I practically threw her at the fireman and he takes her and runs over to the ambulance which just behind him.  Behind the ambulance is a police car and then a rescue squad truck.  Almost immediately upon them arriving, there are five or six paramedics/police men, firemen with Charlotte.  They have her upside down and are shining a light into her throat.  They decided to take her to the hospital via ambulance.
Audrie and I ran back to my house so that I could also put on clothes (I was wearing shorts – the kind that you do NOT go out into public wearing) and Audrie was still pretty close to hysteria, although she has calmed down a little bit.  My neighbor who had been outside to witness me running, came over to make sure everything was okay.  Audrie tries to answer him, but she makes very little sense trying to talk to him, she was still bordering on hysteria.  He must have started walking over when the emergency workers arrived – since not much time had passed, it really had only been enough time for him to see the ambulances and then start walking over.  Although it felt like hours.
Lisa rides with Charlotte in the ambulance while me and Audrie rode in my car to meet them.  We got to the hospital the same time as the ambulance.  Just as we arrived Lisa texted me to say that they got the toy out. WHEW!! I was so happy to be able to share that news with Audrie because it brought her all the way down to calm.
8:02 I immediately called my mom back to let her know the toy had been removed.
The longest 16 minutes of my life.
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