Running with my son’s lifeless body slung over my shoulder, I made it to the car and got into the driver’s seat with my dead son on my lap and his head flopping to one side. As I started the car, my wife got in the backseat while telling 911 services that we were on our way to the hospital 2 miles away.
However, before we pulled out of the driveway, the 911 operator told us that the ambulance was on its way and that we should go back inside.
With desperation pulling my sanity closer and closer to a dangerous precipice, I again threw my son’s lifeless body over my shoulder as we headed back into our strangely different home.
Perhaps it was that action of putting Harry over my shoulder again that altered our lives forever but, I’ll never really know.
To explain more clearly, let’s go back in time to when it all started.
I had just gotten home and was talking to Rachel in the kitchen when Harry walked in and looked like he was about to let out the biggest scream of his life because he had that look on his face and was apparently holding his breath. So, we braced for a tsunami of sound.
But none came. Rachel and I quickly realized that something was terribly wrong with Harry and, once we realized that our son was unable to breathe, we seamlessly began a team effort of trying to save our son.
She called 911 while I was doing the Heimlich maneuver on our son (including carefully scooping anything I could from his throat).
But, I forgot vital information that I had learned 2 decades earlier.
This memory lapse occurred despite the fact that having my wife there on the phone with 911 helped keep me from giving into the paralysis of panic. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
However, nothing was working. My precious, only child started turning awful colors and he was moving less and less until his eyeballs rolled up in his head and then there was nothing.
Something inside of me shouted “Move!” because I couldn’t just sit there doing nothing while my son’s pulse slowed to nothing.
And so, knowing that the hospital was mere minutes away and, thinking I’d be there before an ambulance could get to us, I put his lifeless body over my shoulder and ran out to my car with Rachel right behind.
As we went from the kitchen to the car, I kept telling Harry to stay with us. And I was also crying because my heart was breaking in such a terrible way that I had never felt before. I will never, ever forget what it is like to hold a lifeless child in my arms.
And now, back to the beginning of this story:
We got out of the car with Harry going over my shoulder one last time and we went back inside. The 911 operator told Rachel to tell me to lay Harry on his back and tilt his head back.
That’s when I finally remembered my CPR training from 20 years ago. While a part of me was cursing my forgetfulness, another part of me told me to really scoop Harry’s throat again after which I started giving him mouth-to-mouth. (By the way, when I scooped Harry’s throat the second time, I only got a tiny bit of stuff; certainly not the blockage.)
Again I forgot vital information. I forgot to pinch his nose—thank God.*
So, at this point, Harry is still lifeless and not breathing but after the 3rd or 4th breath I gave him, he responded with a tiny, weak cough. So, I kept carefully pumping his chest and alternating with breaths and soon he could breath on his own—but he couldn’t move his arms and legs which caused me another type of panic but, I kept it at bay.
It was some time after Harry started breathing that the paramedics arrived but I didn’t notice them for a few minutes because I was just staring at my son who was barely coming back to life.
When I acknowledged the paramedics, they said hi and then noticed something: there was a bunch of food stuff on my shoulder that must have been forced out of Harry’s throat from the last time I threw him over my shoulder.
In retrospect, although I still excoriate myself for having forgotten my CPR training, I wonder what would have happened had I remembered and tried to give my son mouth-to-mouth while that remaining blockage was still in his throat.
As it is, Harry is absolutely fine. The paramedics assured us that it is normal for a child to not move their limbs for some time (Over 20 minutes!) after the kind of event that Harry had been through.
He is bright, talkative and energetic and I have to tell you that my life will never be the same.
You see, those 4 minutes of time which the paramedics estimate is how long Harry was dead, those mere 4 minutes changed my life because all the problems in my life disappeared.
I still get challenged by the many demands of Life and the enormous difficulty of being a self-employed person, but for some reason, I seem to always end up thinking that all of my problems are luxury problems; especially when I look into my boy’s beautiful eyes.
And that is the hypnotic lesson for this article which can be summed up in the exquisite words of Wayne Dyer:
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
I have shared this personal information because it is my deepest hope that you will read it, feel it and let it somehow transform your life. Don't wait for this kind of event to happen to you before you change.
*(A nurse recently told me that it has only been in the last 5 years or so that CPR training has changed in that you no longer pinch a toddler’s nose when giving mouth-to-mouth because apparently you can cause terrible if not terminal damage to an infant/toddler when giving them CPR.)