Child survives choking after days in hospital, parents stress importance of CPR training

Updated: Oct. 15, 2019 at 6:59 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A toddler spent five days in the hospital last week after he started choking at the dinner table on food. His parents are getting ready to celebrate his second birthday in a few weeks, but they say the outcome could have been very different.

Kevin Harvel said it was a normal Sunday night around the dinner table until their baby started choking. He said the nine minutes between calling 911 and emergency responders arriving at their home were filled with fear and panic as their baby turned blue from a grape stuck in his throat.

“The emotions that you feel when you see your child in what I would call absolute distress,” Kevin Harvel said.

Kevin said his wife, Stacey, immediately noticed their 2-year-old son, Charlie, was choking.

“He kind of came up to her with that help me look and she noticed that he wasn’t breathing,” Kevin Harvel said.

“When it is your child it is absolutely terrifying,” Stacey Harvel said.

Stacey Harvel said she tried to get the grape out of Charlie’s throat as Kevin called 9-1-1.

“Powerless. I was doing it as hard as I could. I could see the grape. I couldn’t get it out. I was losing strength as I was seeing him lose life,” Stacey Harvel said.

They carried Charlie out into their front yard, screaming for help after they couldn’t get the grape out.

“He was blue all the way from his head to his stomach and I remember screaming he’s gone,” Stacey Harvel said.

Their neighbors came to the rescue, getting the grape out and performing CPR until EMS arrived.

“The moments before EMS arrived is panic. Those minutes seem like hours,” Kevin Harvel said.

Kevin said he and Stacey took CPR training before their first daughter was born, but it wasn’t enough to prepare them for the moment Charlie started choking.

“That training when you go into shock. When something is happening to your close family members, I can’t really explain how that affects you,” Kevin Harvel said.

After the response outside their home, Charlie spent five days at the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte where he had to be intubated while his throat recovered.

Charlie is already back to eating normally, but they say this increased their belief in regular CPR training as parents.

“What if this had went another way? What if we didn’t call 9-1-1? What if our neighbors weren’t home? How would this story have ended for us?” Kevin Harvel said.

Kevin and Stacey said Charlie’s birthday will be a first responders party, and they hope to use it as a way to thank both their neighbors and the first responders who helped save his life.

The National Safety Council reports that choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death.

For a full description of what to do before administering CPR, how to administer CPR, or to sign up for a CPR class visit

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