On Friday, July 23, 2021, Kasandra’s 10-month-old son was eating butternut squash ravioli when he began to choke. Kasandra shared with us that her son turned completely blue, was listless, and losing consciousness. She used the Dechoker® device and thankfully the food was dislodged with one pull. He immediately got his color back. Even when the EMTs arrived, they were impressed with the effectiveness of the Dechoker® device.
Kasandra’s son was born with EA/TEF (Esophageal Atresia with or without Tracheoesophageal Fistula), a congenital anomaly seen in babies when the esophagus is not entirely open. This condition makes children more prone to choking.
According to the Children’s Hospital, an esophageal atresia (EA) occurs when the esophagus is formed in two segments. The baby is born with the esophagus not attached to their stomach. The upper part connects the mouth/throat to a blind pouch (proximal end), and the lower part connects the stomach to a blind pouch (distal end).
Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) occurs when there is an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea (windpipe).
In simpler terms, food and saliva cannot get from the mouth to the stomach. EA/TEF occurs in 1 in 3,000 to 5,000 newborns according to Children’s Hospital. For babies born with both esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula, symptoms can be obvious almost immediately after birth. The most common esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula symptoms include difficulty breathing and choking when swallowing or feeding.
Unfortunately, babies with EA/TEF have difficulty swallowing breast milk, bottled milk, or sometimes even their saliva, and food cannot get to the stomach to be properly digested.
“Many children with EA/TEF will have GI, feeding and respiratory symptoms after repair, which are best treated by a team of multidisciplinary specialists. However, some children will have few symptoms. Children with EA and no TEF may be less likely to have respiratory symptoms but more likely to have GI and feeding symptoms” (Children’s Hospital).
In this case, Kasandra’s son had difficulty swallowing the butternut squash ravioli and was unable to breathe. Thankfully, the Dechoker was nearby, and Kasandra was able to dislodge the ravioli from his airway.
While researching diagnosis, Kasandra saw an advertisement for the Dechoker and ordered one to have on hand, just in case. “If we didn’t have the Dechoker, I can’t even think of what would have happened.”
The Dechoker is a first-aid treatment that anyone, regardless of age or gender. The Dechoker is a simple device with a suction plunger and face mask. To help someone choking on food or another object, you apply the face mask and pull or snap back on the plunger. This creates suction that moves the object, often clearing the airway within seconds.
Other common choking treatments such as abdominal thrusts can be more brutal to perform and come with the risk of injury. We encourage every parent or caregiver to be familiar with these first-aid methods; however, we also suggest keeping a Dechoker nearby if these methods fail and time is of the essence.