I always thought the international sign for choking was just a natural gesture a choking person would use.
Not so much.
Last night we went to Souplantation for dinner. We were in a large group- the four of us, my younger brother’s family of 5, my parents, and my older brother with his three kids. I’d just placed my tray on the table when my oldest nephew jumped up from his seat and snatched the bottle of water from my tray.
He looked up at me with watery eyes. “Is it hot, Sal?” I asked. “Spit it out—if it’s hot, spit it out.” I thought maybe he’d bitten into a jalapeno or something.
Sal began to jump/stomp his feet, clearly agitated. He looked up at me again, eyes still watery. “Are you choking, Sal?” I asked, as I began to move around behind him. My brother, his dad, was next to me, and he began to move into Heimlich maneuver position, too. Just then, Sal was able to grasp- with the tips of his fingers- a slice of pickle that had lodged in his throat.
I wrapped my arm around him as the tears began to fall, and then stepped back so his dad could take over. I could see people around us, whispering and pointing. And other people who continued to eat, not noticing our drama.
I remembered back to when Casey was 11 months old and I had to perform the baby Heimlich maneuver on him because he got a pizza crust lodged in his throat. My eyes began to water.Bob told Sal: “The good news is that you would not have suffered much longer- we’d just figured out you were choking, and we were going to help you.” Then he took Sal outside to calm down – and to teach him the international sign for choking. Hopefully Sal will never need to use it again.