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When I Saved My Son’s Life, But He Didn’t Know

March 17, 2021

I’ve spent time learning about muscle memory. It’s the idea that if you do something enough times in practice that when the time comes to perform, you don’t think you just do.

Athletes practice it.

Soldiers train for it.

Even musicians work to achieve it.

I’m not really an athlete.

I’ve never been a soldier.

I’m not really a musician.

But, I have been a scouter for decades. I started when I was eleven years old. I eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. I was a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. Later, I was Scoutmaster multiple times. I was Assistant Scoutmaster more times. (Being Assistant is way better.)

I’ve taught the basics of scouting multiple times. Basics include hiking safety, native plant identification, cooking and lots of first aid. Funny thing about first aid skills, I hate them. They are important. But, they trigger major PTSD for me.

I’ve been known to pass out just talking about injuries or accidents or anything having to do with blood and injuries. (Human blood. I’m totally fine with animal blood.) Given the choice, I’m fine letting someone else teach the first aid skills.

One of the skills that we teach is the Heimlich maneuver. You’ve probably heard about it. It’s a technique to use when someone is choking. It’s literally lifesaving. By the way, if someone is coughing it means they aren’t choking. You might feel like you are choking, but if you are coughing then air is getting in and out of your lungs.

Choking means that isn’t happening. Someone who is choking can’t cough. They can’t yell. Typically, they will grab their throat and possibly make a slight gagging sound. But, often they can’t make any sound.

My lovely wife and I had 13 kids. Many were close to the same age. Lots of little kids. And little kids put stuff in their mouths. One day my kids came to me with their little brother,

Dad, dad, he’s choking!

Scary, right? What do you do? Do you slap his back? Do you check his airway? Do you call 911? Do you ask what he swallowed? Do you. . .do you. . .do you. . .

It takes about a second to perform the Heimlich Maneuver. Get behind the victim. Place your fist just under his rib cage. Place your other hand over your fist. Give a sharp jerk upwards with your fists. Repeat as necessary.

It takes longer to read it than it takes to do it. And I didn’t remember all those steps. I didn’t think about all those questions. I spun my son around “hugged him” in the Heimlich and out popped a marble.

And just that quickly my six year old son went off to play with his brothers and sisters. None the worse. And in fact, he didn’t even know he’d been in danger. Neither did his siblings. In fact, I almost didn’t realize it. I’d saved my son’s life and no one realized it.

Muscle memory from all of those years teaching the Heimlich maneuver finally paid off when I needed it most.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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