Category Archives: Singapore

It Can Happen in an Instant

grapesMy five-month-old son swallowed a grape whole today. Twelve minutes of restricted breathing felt like a brief lifetime slipping away in my arms. Every tragic scenario imaginable played previews in my mind as I swung him upside down, forcing my finger down his throat and beating him in the back to no avail. He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t coughing. I was overcome with terror.

“What if he was suffering? What if there was irreparable damage? What if…..the unthinkable??!! “

Nothing can fully prepare you for all parenthood hurls at you. We waited, planned, put all of our proverbial ducks in a row. I secured infant CPR certification, (which has since relapsed), read & studied, and lent my ear to every parent I knew with a wealth of experience. In the moment that I was holding my son and trying to prevent his young life from slipping from his body, I could remember very little of it.

I shoved my finger so far down his throat that I could feel the mass, but not grasp it. I could only push it to allow air in and a stream of blood out onto the floor.  baby-cryingI will never forget the look of confusion and horror on his tiny plump face as I watched my pecan tan baby boy shift shades to that of a red onion. It was as though he was beseeching me to fix it and horrified that I couldn’t. After many frenzied attempts to help him dislodge the pulpous fruit had failed, I frantically ran out of my front door barefoot and screaming for help from anyone in sight. The first two women, just at my doorstep, gasped and walked quickly in the opposite direction. The next pair, a middle-aged couple, ran onto the elevator; they were pressing the button to close the door over and over as I rushed pass them and out into the communal area of our complex.

There were very few in view as I ran closer to the center. An elder woman lying next to one at least half her age were precisely in front of me on the opposite side of the pool. A father with his young child and possibly his parents were directly to my left. A bare-chested man in trunks was lying and reading on the opposite side at the far end, and a woman in the water was walking the length of the pool.  I surveilled each one for some sign of willingness to assist as I screamed for help with such desperation that I began to choke on my own cries. Both the man and the pair of women across the pool stared, but sat motionless.  I ran towards the family. Surely, they would know what to do and be urgent in assisting me. The matriarch pointed and shook her head in curiosity, while the father grabbed his own child to shield them from my screeches.

h5550978The water-walking woman leapt from the pool and motioned for me to stop running.

“Do you know CPR,” I shrieked with my son dangling in my hands.

She told me, “no” before trying to sit me down to help him anyway. Two other women eventually approached. One dressed in a floral frock motioned for others to help. The other, another mother as she stated, grabbed my son and began performing the same steps I had already done at home.

1. Secure baby in arms and hold face down over one knee with head lower than chest. “Be careful! Don’t drop him!”

2. Begin back thrusts. “Five I think, but I’m certain I did more. Just keep going.”

3. Turn face up with head still lower than chest.

4. Begin chest compressions with fingers. “Not too hard. Don’t break his ribs.”

5. Repeat. “Repeat! Repeat!!”

6. Stick finger in mouth and press into belly to remove object. “Do you feel it? Is it in there?” 

His nose was clogged with mucus; his eyes stiff with tears. A stream of saliva and vomit streamed from his mouth with traces of blood, but there was no grape. No crying. No coughing. No unrestricted breathing. It wasn’t working!!

           What if I lose him? Oh God, what if I lose him?!!! Please save my son! I can’t lose him…not like this. Not over a stupid               grape! He’s too young. I love him so much. Oh God!! I won’t be able to go home. I can’t face {my husband}. He’ll never           forgive me. I’ll never forgive me. I can’t go back home without him. I can’t face my parents. What will I tell my baby girl?

No, he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. 

Repeat. Repeat! Repeat!!

I just began praying. All I could do was pray and beg God to save my sweet little baby boy. I had already done all else. The man across the pool finally stood with his phone to the side of his face. “Call 999,” I screamed to *Catherine, our live-in assistant who’d trampled out for help behind me. The head security officer used his two-way radio to request assistance before suggesting we move into the Function Room of the condo. The fellow mother followed.  A timid, wide-eyed teenage boy stood in the lobby with his cell phone planked in his hands recording the raucous. I covered my baby and glared at him as a lioness would her next kill. This was not entertainment. He lowered the phone as we whisked into a private room.

Two petite women came in shortly; one, Bella, announced herself as a nurse. I immediately thought of my sister, an RN in the states, and a greater calm came over me. She took my prince and did all of the necessary steps.

1. Secure baby in arms and hold face down over one knee with head lower than chest. “He’s going to be fine.” 

2. Begin back thrusts.  “I’m trusting You.” 

3. Turn face up with head still lower than chest. “I’m releasing him to You God.” 

3. Begin chest compressions with fingers. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5. He’s going to be fine.” 

5. Repeat. “He’s going to be fine.” 

6. Stick finger in mouth and press into belly to remove object. “Wait, he’s crying! He’s crying!” 

“He’s crying,” faintly, but it was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.  No grape ever appeared. There was just a gelatinous fluid masking his entire face, but he was crying and breathing; labored as it was. My phone began ringing and I noticed the time was 12:12. It was exactly 12 minutes since the last time I looked at the clock and realized my son was choking.  Bella assured me that he would be fine. She pressed his little wiggling toes and fingers to show the color was returning and blood was flowing through his body. Based on his shortness of breath, she gathered that he must’ve swallowed it completely. He looked at me so longingly and wearily and limply fell into my arms just as the paramedics entered the room.

I didn’t fully rejoice until he began sucking his thumb in the back of the ambulance. He fell asleep on my shoulder, but I kept nudging him. I wanted to see his eyes, the fullness and liveliness of them. I needed to see his bright eyes open…at least until I was completely sure he was fine.black-baby_0

The visit at the hospital seemed shorter than the entire ordeal. I nursed him to sleep and squeezed and stared and kissed and held him like I did the day he crowned from my womb. My husband, calm as he is always, was already trying to add levity to the matter by boasting that it didn’t happen on his watch. Though I needed to smile, It was much too soon for the joke.  Even as I type this, I keep staring back at my baby and placing my hand on his back to feel the breath flow through his little body. My incredibly beautiful baby boy is fine, but I’m not…not yet.

One friend witnessed the uproar from her thirteenth floor condo. Her windows were open; feeling the fresh wind and basking in the silence of midday, until it was interrupted with the screeches of a frantic mother calling for help. When she lifted her pregnant frame to the window and realized it was me, she wept and began praying. That’s all the strength she could find to do in fear of putting her own unborn child at risk with the stress of hurried movement. After all was resolved, another friend reminded me to be kind to myself in the next few days and not to allow myself to be overcome with guilt, (too late), while yet another shared a similar story about her own child as a reminder that I’m not alone and all will be well. My son’s Godmother sent me encouraging words and reminded me that I face no obstacle alone. That’s what I needed; still need.

I can’t predict the throws of parenthood. No one can. The best we can do is use what we know in a moment of crisis, and admit we know nothing when it’s time to release it completely.  Tonight, I’m holding both of my babies a little tighter with the looming reminder that every moment is sacred and life is fleeting. He is fine, laughing with the infectious joy that is not of this world. They are both fine. That’s what I need.

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For more information about infant CPR, please visit: http://www.babycenter.com/0_infant-first-aid-for-choking-and-cpr-an-illustrated-guide_9298.bc

Ticking Clock

calendar-numbers-dateThe end is near, and I’m not ready. April 30th marks my husband’s last day working for the company. We have one month afterwards to leave before the police come knocking. Singapore does not allow foreigners to just live here without a commercial purpose that benefits the country in some way. Basically, it’s count down time, but I’m far from prepared.

This should be the time of deciding and finalizing, planning and organizing. Months before our move to Singapore, we had checklists by the week to complete. We were excited about our transition and became mission oriented and strategic as soon as the move was confirmed. Now, we’re <<I’m>> ambivalent and procrastinating the inevitable. Without a mandated location, the plethora of options has become a weight rather than a relief.

imageIf it were just my husband and I….if all of our family members were well and secure….if “ifs” were worth entertaining, we’d probably move to Ghana, or SouthAfrican-schoolroom Africa, or hop from country to country or state to state three months at a time to avoid frigid winters. We’d buy rental properties in each place and use the passive income to build a network of African-centered schools to eradicate the educational inequities that plague the disenfranchised across the globe, especially in the pockets of urban America.

We’d be frivolous and hire a personal nutritionist, chef, and trainer that traveled with us to ensure our longevity and make love in every country code. You know, just to stay in shape. I’d write novels, short stories, and plays while sunning in the sand and stick WritingBeside-theBeach-960x565my toes in the waters of every beach, while he’d find every hut, shack, or family-owned restaurant that served the cultural delectables of the city that hosted whichever jazz, hip hop or soul concert he was attending at the time. We’d perform in backwoods churches and overflowing theaters three or four times a week just to spread the message of hope, resilience, and Coming-to-Americarevolution. We’d truly take our freedom papers, multiply them, and spread the spirit of freedom all over the world. We would get it in!!! IF…..

But alas, it is not just he and I. It’s he, she, he, and me.  We both have aging parents and in the books of failing health, we have one and a possible. We’re already at the stage of caring for our children and our elders simultaneously. Truth is, we only had two years when we didn’t have both. Heeding to the twin bellows of obligation and responsibility, we’ve decided it’s time to go back to the U.S.; a decision I’m torn about daily…..