A swallowed coin and a trip to the operating room

There are few things in life that challenge me the way that parenting does. I mean, if you think about it, you’re responsible for keeping a whole human being alive. Easier said than done, sometimes. Well, this is what I learnt on Friday night when I heard my 2 year old gagging.

Now, disclaimer: Thanks for saying my family is beautiful but here’s the (hard, ugly) truth about having three kids under the age of five… you often have to put one kid’s needs on hold, while you’re seeing to the other one. I mean, it’s not exactly ideal. So when the baby made the biggest poo of his life (you know, the type that goes practically everywhere), I had to leave Jo alone with Moana (thanks Disney) while I quickly changed baby. In those few minutes, my Jo managed to find a 10 cent coin (I mean, who even has coins these days?! I have NO IDEA where he got it from!) and he decided to find out what the coin tastes like.

And that’s when he accidentally swallowed it.

Even though I didn’t see him swallow anything, I know my child. The gagging and coughing totally freaked me out and I could immediately tell that something was wrong. He started crying and I noticed that he was drooling a lot and his chest was wheezing. Since I watch Grey’s Anatomy (I’m practically a doctor), I knew that the drooling and sudden wheezing could mean that something is lodged in his throat/airway. He also said that it’s eina, pointing to his throat.

We rushed him to the ER, where a very polite doctor looked at me as if I need to keep my drama in check, telling me TWICE that the kid has tonsillitis and that’s it. I mean, as the doctor pointed out, I didn’t exactly see the kid put a foreign object into his mouth. I had no proof. But at this point, I just knew.

Now, my friends, if I’ve learnt anything it’s that the spirit of God speaks to us – if we care to listen! And so, because of this, when I get a “feeling”… a surety… I trust that instinct. Needless to say, our facial expressions told the doctor that he can point out the kids tonsils to us as many times as he wants, but we still want an x-ray to prove that nothing is lodged in his throat.

A trip to the radiology department later and yup, a whole 10 cent coin was stuck in my baby’s esophagus. The feelings that ran through my body were a mix of: Ha! Take that doctor!/Oh my gosh I’m a terrible mother!/Thank you God, it didn’t constrict his breathing!

There is nothing that comes close to the feeling of sheer terror when you realise that you could lose your baby. And even though the doctor said that the coin is essentially in the “right” pipe (not blocking his airway), I needed it to be removed like PRONTO! The surgeon suggested a bronchoscopy procedure, where they put him to sleep and then use a device, inserted down his throat, to try to grab the foreign object. This could only be done the next day though, so he had to overnight at the hospital. It was quite an experience. I mean, a whole 18 hours with a foreign object stuck in your throat is not a fun time for a bouncy toddler. And, as a parent, not being able to do anything to relieve the pain and discomfort, well, that totally sucked.

I’m so thankful to say that the procedure (which took all of 20 minutes) was successful and our boy was back to his usual ball-of-energy self, as soon as the anesthetic wore off.

My biggest takeaway from this experience was the reminder that God’s hand is on my children’s lives. I mean, Jonah was a promise birthed in our hearts before we were married!

Did I feel guilty that I wasn’t around to prevent my two year old from sampling a shiny 10 cent coin? Uhhh, yeah. Honestly, you guys, I had to move away from the feelings of guilt and fear that threatened to consume me. It is overwhelming to realise that you can’t protect your child from everything. You aren’t able to be around them every second of their day. And even so, eventually they grow up to live their own lives and you have even less control over them then!

So this experience reminded me that all I can do is pray and partner with God. All I can do is trust that He will equip me to be the best parent I can be, and that the “still small voice” will continue to instruct and empower me to make the best decisions concerning my family.

So yeah, this parenting gig is quite a challenge. The hours are crazy and the pay is terrible. But the perks? Well, that makes it all worth it.


  • Simone

    I can believe it must’ve been such a scare! But yeah, with the Holy Spirit gently (and sometimes not so gently!) guiding us, we can be sure this parenting thing won’t be bigger than us

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