SALT LAKE CITY — Two paramedics exhibited grace under pressure over the weekend when they saved the life of a 6-month-old boy in what many would consider an extremely stressful situation.
The boy had swallowed a small figurine, about half the size of an adult finger, and it became lodged in his throat. In a speeding ambulance with the boy barely breathing, the Salt Lake City paramedics had to quickly but gently remove the toy without causing further damage.
"He had started changing color a little bit, and he was just barely breathing at that time," said Salt Lake City Fire Department spokesman Jasen Asay. "With some fineness and some patience, they were able to slowly remove it from his trachea. And once they did that, the baby started breathing normally again. And once they got him to the hospital, the doctors made the comment that the paramedics had basically just saved his life."
The incident happened Saturday in the Rose Park area. A mother, who later told firefighters her 6-month-old son had recently gotten into the habit of grabbing objects and putting them in his mouth, had turned her back on the boy for just a minute.
"She said when she called his name, he looked pretty startled, and she could tell something was wrong. And when she approached him, he wasn't breathing very well," Asay said.
The woman called 911, and paramedics responded from Salt Lake City Fire Station No. 7, 273 N. 1000 West. When they arrived, blood was coming from the boy's mouth, and his airway was almost completely obstructed, Asay said. Turning the boy upside down and slapping him on the back did not dislodge the object, he said.
After the boy was loaded into the back of an ambulance, the paramedics took action.
"If you're in the back of speeding ambulance, you probably feel a lot of pressure. You have a 6-month-old boy, and it takes a lot to use the (scope) to look down into the trachea, and once you notice something to use the Magill forceps and to steadily go down the throat of a 6-month-old baby and get the object and to pull it out, and to not pull it out roughly where you're going to cause damage," Asay said. "I don't think there was a time when he was not breathing. But I think he was very close to not breathing."
The toy was pulled out about 10 minutes after it became lodged, he said.
Asay said the incident was a good reminder for parents who have young children to keep objects they could put in their mouths out of reach.
"If you turn your head for a minute, they can get into something, whether it's a toy or a cleaning chemical or something they shouldn't be getting into," he said.