Another difficulty we faced with Raun was his inability to eat solid foods. At each meal, we would attempt to teach him how to chew and, hopefully, convert his baby-food diet into a more well-rounded meal with solid foods. One night, he grabbed a handful of French fried potatoes from a bowl and shoved them into his mouth. A comic image with swollen cheeks and the amused look of a clown. Before we had a chance to dislodge the excess food from his bulging mouth, he swallowed part of it without chewing. He looked up at me, surprised, and gasped. Within seconds, he was in trouble.
The food stuck in his windpipe, cutting off his ability to breathe. He began to struggle desperately, poking his fingers into his neck. His eyes opened wide, pushing outward from his head as if he were trying to grab air through his vision. We picked up his arms and slapped his back, then shook his entire body. What we did had no impact.
He still could not get any air. He started to shake his arms, then looked at me as if pleading for help and, yet, at the same time, observing events that had slipped beyond his control. I picked him out of his chair, opened his mouth, and searched his throat for the food with my fingers. No use. I turned him upside down and began shaking him. Raun struggled more now. His body jerked spasmodically. I slapped his back, then hit his buttocks. Impossible. An every-evening occurrence had quickly assumed the proportions of an unthinkable nightmare. All present had jumped out of their seats. I could see all the rush of movement in my peripheral vision as I searched desperately for something else to do. Shock the digestive track. Send a ripple through the system that would make him vomit. I handed Raun to Samahria, telling her to keep him upside-down. With one hand, I found the soft part in his upper abdomen just below the rib cage and with the palm of my other hand slammed upward into that section of his body. He emitted a harsh grunt as the potatoes and other contents in his stomach tumbled to the floor. We had improvised a maneuver that saved our child. Years later, a physician would design a similar procedure to help choking victims.
My hands began to shake as I looked at Samahria's numb expression. She held her son close to her. Raun coughed, then recovered quickly. He looked at us with great relief His eyes glistened as he glanced at us with an expression that seemed to say, "Thanks."
Short panting breaths dominated my body as my ribs strained under the constant and rapid pounding of my heart. Samahria and I gaped at each other through the tension in our eyes. Her face and lips had turned ghostly white, but she managed to squeeze out a smile of relief. I began to laugh. Raun was still here! He had survived. We had survived. God had given us another day - another day to try to reach our special child.
We decided in that moment to initiate immediately a crash effort to teach Raun how to consume solid foods. We would first establish eye contact, then have him watch us insert food into our mouths, chew it exaggeratedly, and then swallow it. We repeated this over and over and over again. Finally, Samahria placed soft but solid food into his mouth. For the first few moments, he just let it sit there on his tongue, then let it fall out of his mouth. We modeled a possible course of action for him by chewing the same food robustly in our own mouths. Unfortunately, he did not take our cues. Samahria talked to him as she manipulated his jaw with her hands, opening and closing his bottom set of teeth against his upper set as a way to teach him how to ready food for consumption. We repeated this exercise diligently at every meal. Samahria and I took turns working his jaw. Every so often, we could feel the muscles of his jaw work. It took forty-two meals over a period of two weeks before we noted real progress. Finally, our enigmatic son started to chew, Hurrah! Hurrah!Chapter 6 Part V