Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Child’s Life – Podcast Episode #147
August 18, 2022

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Child's Life - Podcast Episode #147

Kristin chats with Mark about how he came to write his book Emergency and why it’s important for expecting moms and dads to start thinking about safety issues about 8 weeks before birth!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  My guest today is Mark Wilhelmsson, and he is with Our Child’s Keeper.  Welcome, Mark!

Mark:  Hey, thank you so much.  I appreciate it.

Kristin:  So happy to have you here!  So you are not only an author a new book titled Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Child’s Life, but you’re also a certified infant, child, and adult CPR, AED, and first aid instructor and water safety ambassador through the American Red Cross.

Mark:  Yes.

Kristin:  So tell us a bit about how you got into this line of work.  I know you had a different career prior to getting into CPR and first aid?

Mark:  I mean, talk about totally different.  So I was a trial investigator in New York City.  So I would basically – if there was a crane fell in Manhattan, or there a construction accident, I would take the team and basically we would go in and figure out, you know, who’s liable for what.  If there were injuries, are they substantiated, or, you know, is the plaintiff lying and that type of thing.  So we would do a ton of research on them and find witnesses and everything else.  So those would be cases in civil, supreme, and federal court, which actually, that skill set came in handy for what was about to happen with my two-year-old son, if you want me to go into that.  So it was just like, you know, any other morning.  At the time, we had just had a pretty new baby, a girl, so that was our fourth.  But she was up sleeping, and my wife had – my wife is a nurse, and she came back super late, as usual, from her crazy shifts as a nurse.  And so she was sleeping at the time.  And so Marcus had just turned two years old, and I was just cutting up some fresh fruit for him for breakfast, and I was sitting right across from him, watching him while he was eating, and all of a sudden, everything just sort of stopped.  He kind of froze, and I just stared at him and knew something was wrong but didn’t know what.  And time stands still.  Things just kind of stop.  And then of course, that quickly switches over to him sort of almost telepathically communicating, like, save me, something’s wrong.  And that’s when I figured, you know, that he’s got to be choking.  But the thing is, embarrassingly enough, I had no clue what to do.  I mean, I was just – I froze just like he did.  What ended up happening was luck saved him.  So he was actually able to eventually violently cough it up, and I got a second chance.  It was one of those scenarios where you – first you start crying with gratitude, and then that’s quickly followed by being embarrassed and then being angry, frankly.  Why was it that I had four kids, and I didn’t know something so basic?  So that was the embarrassing part.  Like, why was this somehow not on my radar?  After getting angry like that, I said, well, I sort of vowed to him and my other kids, and to my wife, too, that this is never going to happen again.  So I immediately went over and got certified in infant and child and adult CPR just by a local instructor, and we were having a great conversation about it, and most of the people in his class, he said, were people who had to be there for their jobs.  But the parents who came in, 99.9% of the time, it was because they got caught like I did, basically, without these life-saving skills.  It freaked them out, and so they did something about it.  So that’s where my journey sort of began.

Kristin:  Whoa.  So happy to hear your son’s all right!  But that definitely would alter your career path.  It’s such important work, and you’re right, most parents don’t have that training.  Or maybe they took a CPR class years back and have forgotten choking and everything we’ve learned.  So it’s important to keep up on that.  I know as doulas, we keep up with all of our certifications, and it’s really important to the families that we serve to have those skills.

Mark:  Yeah, and I think what’s so important about having a doula, too, in my mind, at least, is because of that, you’re aware of the fact that you need to refresh these skills.  You don’t rely on the certifications.  And the reason I say that is getting certified is not enough.  The way our memories work, again, as an investigator, I just took this – basically, this problem and went several layers deep, and one of the things was is like, we have terrible memories.  I mean, we have —yeah, within 24 hours, we’ll forget up to 60% of what we just learned, and within 48, it’s up to 80%.  So it’s sort of like, you know, scoring an A on a Monday and failing that same test on a Wednesday.  When it comes to lifesaving skills, you can’t fail.  So you have to have regular refreshers, and so I found that out, you know, again, through this certification class, when a client of mine in New York found out kind of the story behind getting certified, and he said, “Well, what would I do for my daughter?”  And I think she was 13 or 14 at the time, and I forgot the steps already.  You know, and that was just a few days later.  And I was like, wait a second.  You know, like, what is going on?  In other words, I couldn’t go back and explain the sequence to him.  So that’s when my path started to just, again, take another several layers.  I’m like, well, not only do I need refreshers, but just from a knowledge perspective, not so much as a career, but from a knowledge perspective, I also want to become an instructor and just really dive deep, not only in this subject, but also refresh and then teach other parents how to do the same thing so they don’t ever have to be sort of caught with that, basically, balancing act between tragedy and luck.

Kristin:  Right, and I love that you incorporate water safety.  There are so many accidents, and I live in Michigan where there’s water everywhere, and so with drowning, young children going into a pool or a pond in their back yard or river and so on.

Mark:  Yeah, and that’s one of those amazing things about the class, too, is when I went to go speak with a local swim instructor, you know, she was in her 70s, and so she’d been doing it for, like, 50 years, you know.  And the reason why she got into swim safety is because when she was a kid, she almost died of drowning.  So she decided to dedicate her life to it.  And one of the things that she said to me, which was a few of the reasons I wrote the book, was to really highlight the things that most parents have never heard of before.  They’re like, wait, what?  And one of those things was from her, and she said, you know, if you ever have a scenario where your child – let’s say they’re starting to walk around and they go missing for a little bit – like, you’re not sure – they get up early from a nap, and you’re still sleeping or something like that and you can’t find them, she’s like, what parents most of the time do is they’ll go check a closet or under the bed.  She’s like, go check any water source first.  You know, because they’re top-heavy.  They could tip over into a toilet, into a tub, into – I mean, there’s been instances where it’s been a dog bowl, like a dog bowl of water, and kids have drowned in that.  And then also a couple of other things is to use technology.  Like, our house is fitted – we have Alexas all over the place.  So if something goes wrong, I can literally broadcast to the entire house and tell them what’s going on.  If my daughter Lana went missing, I could say, “Hey, everybody, Lana’s missing.  Go check water sources.  Marcus, you do this.”  Yeah, and so it’s not only using the people around you, but technology like those Alexas.  You can outfit your house for, like, a couple hundred dollars.  It’s ridiculous.  So it’s fantastic.  We have all of these tools.  It’s just really a matter of sort of getting over the old hump of human beings where it’s not going to happen to me, right, until it does.

Kristin:  So obviously our doula clients are preparing for baby’s arrival, and we have a Becoming a Mother course, and our students are really trying to figure out what classes are important to take at what point in pregnancy, or can some things wait until later.  What is your suggestion for expecting parents on when they should take these child safety courses, and how many times they should refresh outside of, you know, obviously purchasing your emergency book and having it on hand?

Mark:  Yeah, so what I love about that course you’re talking about – I mean, having – I believe you have, like, six modules, so video courses that you can reference and refresh, right?  So as far as the timing is concerned, in my research, what I’ve found is that about eight weeks before you give birth would be a good time to start the process.  Because if you think about it – it may even be before that.  It’s really kind of specific to the person.  But when they’re starting to, for instance, have – you know, create the sleep environment, like how to create a safe sleep environment – that’s something we cover, and I know you definitely cover it, right?  For sure.  So it’s just a matter of, there’s so many things that are going to be happening.  I said this to a friend of mine the other day who’s going to be giving birth pretty soon.  It’s just like, no matter how many times – on the fourth child, like, you never leave the hospital like, I got this.  It just doesn’t happen, you know?  All that knowledge is out the window.

Kristin:  Every child is unique.  They all have different needs, temperaments.  There’s no manual.

Mark:  Yeah, and as far as doulas, too, I know a big part of what you do is also breastfeeding, and with our youngest, just to kind of hammer that point home a little bit, she was born with severe allergies, and even allergies to the breast milk.  And we didn’t even know that there was something – that there was a medical grade formula.  We had no clue.  So what did we do?  We ended up going in and out of the hospital, testing things out, and that would have been a helpful piece of knowledge, you know?  And so it’s really about surrounding yourself as a parent with experts such as yourself and the knowledge, and again with the timing, we talk about life-saving skills, and the emphasis is on the word “skill.”  If you kind of marry that with an emergency, one thing I like to say, and I think it’s true, is we really only panic when we don’t have the skills to solve the problem, right?  So for me, it’s like, well, how long does it take you individually to really learn a skill and then as far as refreshing to your earlier question, if you actually learn that skill and really believe you have a handle on it, refresh it every month at least.  And then also we have something that I created, just a PDF that we give out for free, which is just called a babysitter’s checklist.  And the reason we do that is to really highlight some of the basic things parents should think about once the kids get to the age where they actually have a babysitter.  Now, a babysitter, you might say, okay, well, I’m not going to do that until the baby is such-and-such years old, but I’ll leave him with my parents.  It’s a caregiver, right?  You’re leaving your kids with somebody, regardless of whether or not you know them very well or they’re your parents.  So they basically have to know those same skills that you know in order for you really to have peace of mind to leave the children with them.  So the checklist highlights something as simple as “know your address,” and that might sound really obscure or not exactly an ah-ha, but actually that tip came from an EMT friend of mine in New York.

Kristin:  It makes sense, yeah.

Mark:  Well, he said, think about it this way.  He’s like, how many people go to your house and know how to get there, but they don’t know your address?

Kristin:  A babysitter wouldn’t have that memorized, sure.

Mark:  No.  And what’s the first thing 911 is going to ask you?  Where are you calling from?  70 to 80% of calls made to 911 are from a cell phone, and of course, if you have a landline in your house, then the 911 dispatcher will know exactly where you are, but most people don’t do that.  They’ll call from their cell phone.  So something as simple as know your address, make sure that they know the address.  And also we always say, just spring for an extra $5, $10.  Have them come 15 minutes early and watch some videos on how to perform baby CPR or how to perform child CPR or choking.  Get these refreshers into your babysitters, and give them access to it.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com, or check it out at www.thebecomingcourse.com.  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  Right, and there’s so many different trainings, even if someone is trying to – it could be an online and simple versus an in-person skill assessment.  So even asking for certifications and trainings, there are different types and levels.  So that’s a good point.

Mark:  Yeah.  And the thing about certification – like, I don’t want to knock on certification because, of course, we highly encourage everybody to do that, and the reason being is not necessarily from a knowledge perspective because, like I said, unless you’re in the top 10%, you’re probably going to forget that, right?  And when you’re in a state of panic, you’re completely useless in a state of panic.  What we say, though, is that from a CPR certification perspective, not to focus on the certification so much.  Yes, you will get that, but actually handling the mannequins, knowing what it feels like to give proper compressions at the correct rate and how to do a proper rescue breath, because the mannequins these days that you train on, they have lungs.  You know, like, they have these airbags that act as lungs, and we have these little meters on there that can tell you if you’re going too slow, too fast.  So just getting that sort of kinesthetic part of it so you can actually feel what it feels like to do it correctly is again just another level you can take.  So get certified by all means, and that’s why we chose our nanny.  We’ve had nannies for years, and we chose them from an international agency because they required that, and you can make sure that they got trained on that.  But at the same time, as I was going through this process, I understood that that wasn’t enough.  So I would actually not only have her learn from my own videos that I was creating but also spot-check her and say, “Hey, Camilla, do you know, what do you do in this situation?”  And you test her, and if she doesn’t know, that’s fine.  It’s human nature.  It’s like being back in high school, you know?  Like, yeah, you’re going to panic a little bit, but the main thing is, you’re getting it into their heads, like yeah, I should go back through this.

Kristin:  Yeah.  It’s not something you use every day, so it’s easy to forget.  Refreshers are very important.  Now, you had mentioned a bit about self-reliance and the time it takes for emergency vehicles to arrive when you call 911 and really just being able to act quicker than just calling 911.

Mark:  Yeah.  911 was one of those things that, when I was doing my research, which just freaked me out.  The average response time nationally of 911 is over 10 minutes.  And so your baby or your child could become unconscious or even an adult within under 2 minutes, right?  So it’s not only that, but also, again, doing the research on 911, they’re also an auditory system, and most of us are visual learners.  So here we are – like, we’re in a state of panic.  We don’t know what to do.  We call 911.  They tell us first thing, after getting the address, is to remain calm.  It’s like, great, thanks.  You know, like, that’s not so easy.  Then the next thing is, they’re going to start giving you instructions that are auditory.  You can’t see what’s going on.  Then you have to be able to visualize it and do it in a panicked state.  It’s just one problem after the other.  And then also 911, too, they’re also understaffed a lot of the time.  As far as the technology, it’s outdated.  One of the things, if you go to our website, we have this amazing video, and it’s basically a reporter who was calling a 911 dispatcher from his cell phone, and he says, “Can you tell me where I’m calling from?”  And she gives an address.  Now, she gives the address right in front of the director of that 911 dispatch center.  And do you know she gives the address that’s a quarter of a mile away?  Now, he’s standing inside the dispatch center overlooking the call center where she’s sitting, and the address is a quarter mile away.  And listen, I say this in the book, too.  I’m not in any way ripping into the 911 dispatchers, police, firemen, none of that stuff.  It’s just the bottom line, it’s the system.  And they all do their very, very best with what they have.  But my whole philosophy is, do that research.  Find out what are the gaps, and then parents really need to be self-reliant and fill those gaps themselves and not rely on someone else to save their own children.  Do you call 911?  Absolutely.  Do it every single time so somebody is on the way.  Just to take a scenario like choking, let’s say they choke on a screw, and you’re able to get it out.  Is everything okay then?  No.  They might have lacerated their esophagus.  There could be any number of internal injuries.  So you still want that EMS to come there immediately, same thing with allergic reactions.  That’s what I mean.  We have to do our very best.  But the statistic I found was that 72% of parents aren’t even aware of the fact that the number one cause of childhood deaths are from accidental injuries, these accidental, unintentional injuries, most of which could have been prevented.  They’re not even aware of it in the first place.

Kristin:  Right.  And you obviously cover poison.  A lot of parents are worried about childproofing during pregnancy and getting the house ready, and once baby starts crawling, what needs to be done.  Do you get into just safety with, like, poisonous materials and so on?

Mark:  Yeah, not only poisonous, but also, I did a video a little while back called Be Your Child’s Detective, I think was the title of it.  And it was basically, get down on their level.  And that really came from another one of these personal, got-lucky situations where we had some furniture that was being put together back when my oldest son was just crawling.  He was crawling, and I came home from work one day, and he crawled over to say hi to me, obviously, but I noticed when he smiled, I noticed something shiny in his mouth, and I was like, well, what in the world?  And I just calmly went over, because I figured if I startle this kid or if he swallows whatever that is – and it turned out to be a screw.  So the guys came over.  They put together the couch, and there was a screw under there that he could reach, put it in his mouth.  Now, is that their fault?  Well, yeah, but at the same time, it’s our fault, too.

Kristin:  Right.  No one knew it was there, yeah.

Mark:  No, but you have to be your child’s detective.  In other words, get on their level and do a scan.  What is down there that I can’t see as an adult standing up six feet tall or whatever you are, and get down on the floor.  What can they see?  Where can they put their hands?  So it goes beyond just basic childproofing with the usual stuff but also goes to really being situationally aware and saying, okay, well, if my child is crawling in this room, what could they maybe see or reach that I’m not thinking of?

Kristin:  Like a little screw like that, yeah.

Mark:  It could be a lamp cord.  It could be any number of things.  But that could have done serious, serious damage to him.

Kristin:  For sure.  So any other tips from Emergency to share with our audience?

Mark:  Oh, man, we have a ton.  I did a chapter called Parent Awareness And The Million Little Things, is what I called it.  Basically, when you really look at a tragedy or even an injury, but basically, if you think about statistically speaking, it’s super sad, just one of these statistics that I can’t get out of my head, and again, it’s one of the reasons for the book.  This year worldwide, nearly a million children will not make it to the age of five.  Now, that’s not due to war or famine or disease.  This is due to, again, right back to – these are unintentional, accidental injuries, most of which could have been prevented.  So when you really look at those statistics, there’s a lot of things that usually happen around one of these tragedies.  There’s a lot of little things that have to kind of come into place for that thing to happen.  Failures in a number of different areas.  And so for me, I really wanted to create a chapter on parent awareness.  Like, really, one of the mothers told me, she’s like, these days, awareness is a skill.

Kristin:  Yes, for sure.  There’s so many distractions.

Mark:  Yeah, and I tell parents, listen, if you’re looking down at your phone, that means you’re not looking up at your kids.  And then the million little things, I really want to just start sort of a list of those tips that most parents have not heard of.  The one I’ll just say is never feed your child while they’re in a car seat.  Now, how many times have you done that?  How many times have I done that?

Kristin:  I’ve done it!

Mark:  Yeah, I mean, all four kids.  And I’m like, wait, what?  And this was actually from the original CPR instructor who had been doing it for so many years.  He heard every story under the sun, and it made so much sense.  He said, listen, choking is a silent event.  You think they may be sleeping or whatever it is.  They could be unconscious.  And then by the time you get to the destination, which could be 20, 30 minutes or more away, it’s way too late.  So by all means, feed them something before they go and when they get there.  And if it’s a super long trip, that’s when you have smoothies.  You have something with the consistency that should not really be a choking hazard.  So really, again, situationally aware.  What could go wrong here and how could I really prevent that stuff from happening?  And we really wanted to highlight a lot of that stuff in the book.  And of course with the training itself, if something does go wrong, now at least you have a visual way of learning how to save that child.

Kristin:  Yeah, it’s very helpful.  I used to feed my kids puffs and – but you’re right, they could choke and you’d have no idea.

Mark:  No idea, yeah.  We did the same thing.  It’s amazing kids are alive these days with all the mistakes that we’ve made in the past, you know?

Kristin:  So in summary, it seems like preparation is key.  The earlier the better, but again, refreshing.  So if a couple takes a CPR training in their second or third trimester, then they should certainly refresh when – you know, multiple times.  When baby’s crawling, as you said; with some of the poisonous and hazardous materials, and water safety and so on.

Mark:  Yeah, yeah.  And that’s why we did the book.  We did the book plus the masterclass.  The book really is more of a motivation.  I think once they read through just the introduction itself – I mean, that’s where I really highlight 911 and all these issues including – I have one part of the book that I get a lot of feedback from that says, while everything can be Googled, not everything should be Googled.  There are some things you shouldn’t just go and put into YouTube, how to save a baby from choking or whatever, because you don’t know where that information’s coming from, who’s giving it to you, is it updated.  And then most of the time, that information is very specific to the title of that video, such as, you know, how to save your baby from choking.  That’s very specific.  A lot of parents aren’t aware of the fact that how you save a baby from choking under the age of one is entirely different than how you save a baby who’s over the age of one.  It’s just like you’ve done with your video series, as well.  It’s really creating a place where they can – it’s on demand, and they can go there 24/7 from anywhere, anytime on basically any device and watch these videos and get these refresher skills, all within just a few short minutes.

Kristin:  So they can go onto your website, Our Child’s Keeper, to get more information about the master class and your modules and some of the handouts that you were referring to, correct, Mark?

Mark:  Yes.  And then as far as the book is concerned, they can get it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, those types of retailers.  But also we’ve created a separate site for the book.  It’s a brand new site.  That will really expand on everything and bring them through not only being able to get the book or an audiobook or e-book version, but also if they wanted to get into the masterclass, they can do that, and then I can also do private coaching as well if they wanted to do something very specific to their family.  It really goes back to if they have three kids as opposed to one, what are the ages; what are the challenges that each of those kids have for their age, and then being ready for those scenarios.  And I think the other thing, too, just to wrap that part up, is just to – you also become a valuable member of the community.  This isn’t just about your kids, right?  I mean, you have the ability, you have the skill set.  Just like with doulas, the information they’re going to get from your course, they’re going to share, and that could very well potentially not only have them come into your course as well, but I’m sure there are just tips in there that you have that they share with their friends that could really impact their lives.  So I think what we’re both doing is super important.

Kristin:  Right.  We’re with you on avoiding Google.  It’s like, find evidence-based information.  Go to the correct source versus randomly searching for things.

Mark:  Exactly.

Kristin:  Well, I appreciate everything you’re doing for families, and also for caregivers; like you said, babysitters and doulas and other people, like even in workplaces, to have this training.  You never know whose life you might be able to save.

Mark:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  And by the way, I just want to say one more thing about – when you say “workplace,” one little extra tip.  When you have this skill, and if you’re going to become a valuable member of the community or if you are somebody who has this happen in public, whether it’s in a workplace or in a mall or wherever you are, you really have to take the leadership position.  Everybody gets very emotional around children.  Everybody freezes.  You’ll see this on any number of videos of a child choking in a mall.  No one moves, right?  And so it’s very rare that anybody moves a finger.  But if you become a leader, you know what you’re doing.  You point to the person.  You may not know who they are.  I mean, maybe in a workplace, you do, but if you’re in public, you don’t.  You point to the person.  You say, you in the plaid shirt, call 911 and get an AED and come back because I may need your help.  Then that person will – okay, now they just got a directive, right?  They’ll spring into action.  But if you don’t do that and you say, hey, somebody, help.  No.  You have to really take the leadership position.  And so that’s just one last tip.  But again, you really only do that – we stress that in our masterclass really to just – I think children – I have a quote on the website, and I don’t even remember my own quote, but it’s basically – you know, I have so many quotes at this point, but it’s basically, I feel like children are really looking to us to be their leaders, right?  To hold them up, keep them safe.  And they deserve it.  And so looking at yourself as a parent, as the protector, but also as the leader.  And that goes for mothers and fathers.  We have to know these skills on an individual basis, not rely on even your wife or your spouse or your partner or whoever it is.  You have to be self-reliant.  And then if you’re leaving the child with somebody else, understand that you’re leaving them with somebody else, then make sure that they have that same or better skill set than you have.

Kristin:  Right, exactly.  Wonderful tips.  Thanks so much, Mark, and I can’t wait to share your book and your masterclass information with our clients and our Becoming a Mother students.

Mark:  Thank you so much for having me.  I really appreciate it.

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