SALT LAKE CITY — Almost two years ago, Shannon Tripp's 10-month-old son started choking. A peppermint had gotten lodged into his throat and completely blocked his airway; no oxygen was getting in or out and as his face turned blue, Tripp jumped into action.
It's a scary incident for any parent when their child suffers a medical emergency, even a trained pediatric emergency room nurse like Tripp.
Thanks to her background, Tripp jumped into autopilot and knew just what to do. She dislodged the item from her son's throat and quickly realized her actions had saved his life. What if she hadn't known what to do? The question still haunts her today and has helped inspire her current career of helping educate parents online about child safety.
Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in young children, and kids under 5 years old are at a higher risk, according to the National Safety Council.
Tripp wants to help change that statistic and empower parents to know what to do if the unthinkable ever happens to their kids.
"I just am so passionate about teaching them everything, everything you need to know," she said.
Oftentimes, parents are told to call 911 and wait for help to arrive. But when a child is choking, every second matters.
"You really have four minutes until you lose oxygen to the brain and you can become brain dead," Tripp explained. "Choking is not something that you can wait for help — you have to know exactly what to do."
Now, the mother of four is sharing training videos with parents that she created to help families if something ever happens to their child and they don't know what to do.
"We all take home these brand-new babies from the hospital that we love so much, and we don't want anything to happen to them," Tripp said. "But then we kind of step back and we're like, 'What if something does? Nobody's taught me these sort of things.'"
So what should you do if a child or infant is choking? Here's what the National Safety Council says:
- For children older than 1, the Heimlich maneuver is what's recommended. After reaching around the abdomen from behind, locate the belly button and then place a fist against the stomach just above the navel and begin thrusting in and upward with quick motions.
- For babies, strong back blows are recommended to dislodge the item. For that procedure, hold the baby facedown and support their head, with their torso on your forearm. Then, with the heel of your hand, do back blows on the baby between the shoulder blades until the object is expelled. After the back blows, if the object is still blocking the baby's airway, flip the infant around and deliver chest thrusts on the breastbone with two fingers.
Tripp believes parents can be the best advocates for their children since they're the ones who know them the best.
"We are capable, we know our children the very best; we know them better than a doctor or a firefighter, paramedic, or whoever is going to come care for your children, you know them best," Tripp said.
Learning to work with one's intuition is an important skill she tries to teach parents, and especially mothers. It can help lead to empowerment and feeling confident about their child-care, she said; however, it can be difficult to achieve without the proper education.
"When you're a new mom, I don't think you really understand the gift of intuition that you have, and your ability to make decisions for your children," Tripp explained. "And mixing that in with education is the most beautiful, powerful thing when it comes to parenting children."
Tripp, who was a nurse in Utah but has since moved to Puerto Rico with her family, has more than 466,000 followers on her Instagram account from all over the world. She recently launched a new paid program, in addition to her free videos on Instagram and YouTube, aimed at educating parents about child injuries.
At the end of the day, Tripp said that while it's great for parents to go out and take CPR courses, sometimes the information isn't always retained. Her mission is to make this lifesaving information accessible and easy to watch.
"We're all so busy and know factors play into our ability to reach this information," she said. "I'm just trying to make it as available as possible to everybody."