Corey Cohen didn’t think twice about putting her son, Drew, in his stroller with a handful of Cheerios. They were at the doctor’s office, and the 10-month-old was perfectly content to enjoy a snack while his mom chatted with the pediatrictian.
Suddenly, Drew began gagging. Corey lifted him from his stroller and noticed Drew was trying to cough but couldn’t.
“My ‘mommy mode’ kicked in, and I knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
Corey, who sits on the board of the American Red Cross in Union County, had been trained years ago in CPR and First Aid, but didn’t feel confident enough to tend to her choking son. She frantically handed Drew to the doctor, who placed the baby on her forearm and delivered several blows between his shoulder blades.
“We were both talking to him saying, ‘Breathe! Breathe!’” Corey recalled. “I can remember leaning down by him as the doctor was hitting his back and seeing the strained expression on his frozen face.”
Corey watched in horror as Drew’s entire body had begun changing color. After 30 seconds and no improvement, the doctor threw open the door and called for help.
“As the doctor stepped out into the hallway, I watched Drew’s limp, purple body flop over her forearm,” Corey said.
She remembers worrying about having to tell her 4-year-old daughter that Drew had passed. She remembers panicking at that thought because her children adore each other. She remembers wondering, “How could all this happen because of a Cheerio?”
Fortunately, after what Corey said seemed like hours, she heard the sweetest sound: Drew began to cry. He regained his color and reached for his mother’s embrace.
“I grabbed him up and hugged him, feeling like I was going to faint from relief,” Corey said.
While she was “a complete wreck” for the rest of the day, Corey decided she wanted to tell everyone about what happened to Drew so they would have the chance to prepare themselves for an emergency.
“I thought if it could save it just one child, it would obviously be worth it,” she said.
Corey organized an American Red Cross CPR class for people who hadn’t been trained or, like her, who needed a refresher.
“Choking is one of those things you are always aware of, especially with young children, but it’s also one of those things you think will never happen to you or your child,” she said. “To think someone could actually die from eating seems overwhelmingly unbelievable, but I now know that is completely the opposite. It’s very possible and very real.”