Lessons Learned on the Saudi Roads

Let me share a story and a valuable learning experience from our Saudi Road trip.

So we were cruising on the highway in the rented SUV somewhere between Kharj and Wadi Al-Dawasir surrounded by literally NOTHING else than rocks. The scenery out there is just flat. Not even the random camels you often see roaming in the desert could be seen, let alone any sort of vegetation. Not even a twig. Just flatness. And rocks.

This sign indicates there would in fact be camels around but I think they just put it there for looks.

This was the most interesting scenery and the only pic I took for about 500km. So now you get the idea of how desolate and completely void of any life or human settlements this area is.

So back to the story. I was sitting in the backseat next to our six month old  breastfed baby who was playing with toys in her car seat (or so I thought). I was pumping milk and had the lights off in case some over enthusiastic idiot drove too close and got all excited from a glimpse of that glamorous sight (let me tell you there is nothing glamorous or exciting about pumping milk, but with Saudi guys, you never know). So in order to save time I figured I could just pump the milk and give it to her in a bottle instead of having to make another stop for breastfeeding.

My mom and husband were listening to some weird radio program that sounded like it was being broadcasted from outer space. It was the only channel available in English out there. I think it was the news but I could be wrong because like I said it sounded like it was coming from light years away or another era. But anyways they had the volume so high I could not even hear the breast pump making its usual yatouhuuyatouhuuyatouhuu -sound.

Suddenly I realized the baby was making a gagging sound. Ok I was not so alarmed at first because my baby has some sort of obsession of sticking fingers in her mouth so far that it makes her gag. And she thinks it’s funny! This baby does not have a sense of humor! I mean who does that anyways? And please don’t tell me there’s something called baby-bulimia because there’s not. It’s just her thing ok.

So I told her to stop (as if it helps) but it just got worse. My husband switched the light on and we saw she was really gagging on something this time. From this point on the story becomes a bit blurry in my mind.

I shouted to my husband to stop the car because the baby was choking and he braked so hard the car almost flipped. We stopped on the side of the highway where maniacs are speeding by at 300km/h. My husband and mom ran out of the car to her side and took her out of the car seat. Did I mention I was still attached to the breast pump? Oh and that mom was not wearing her abaya.

It was so dark they couldn’t see clearly if there was anything in her mouth. I had taught my husband basic CPR skills in cases of emergency and stressed the importance of the “no blind sweeping” rule. I was so proud that he remembered it when he was forbidding mom from doing it! I saw the baby’s face turning increasingly red from gagging. Which could be seen as a good sign because at least there’s still oxygen in her system.

The only thing I could think of was to get to her. So I just threw the bottles on the floor and got out of the car with my ta-tas peeking out of the abaya (which I only realized later).

I took the baby and automatically started doing what I had been practicing many times with a dummy in Life Support classes. Somehow time stopped and things slowed down like in the Matrix movies except that thankfully I didn’t have to dodge any bullets. I was thinking to myself this is not happening. I am not going to let her choke here, in the middle of the desert! There is no time for an ambulance or even helicopter to reach us(and where the hell are we anyways, next to rock number 76,945,412?) I was determined to get the thing out of her.

Looking back I cannot believe how calm I was. I kept hitting her in the back to hope something would fly out but without avail. My baby was starting to get limp and blue and had stopped gagging. So I decided to look once more in her mouth by shining the iPhone light in there. And lo and behold there it was. A piece of clear plastic stuck down her throat.

I managed to get it out  while my husband was holding the light and mom keeping the baby still.THANK GOD she started breathing normally again! I just held her and cried out of relief. She had reached out to a small plastic wrapper on a juice and started chewing on it. Despite the 100 toys I had given her to play with in the car seat! Babies!

It was really quite a scare. Without knowledge of basic life support and CPR, the baby most likely would not have survived. The incident shook me for a long time and the thought of loosing her there and then sends chills down my back!

So what lessons can we learn from this story?

-Learn basic life support skills, and teach your partner and other family members too.

-While pumping breast milk in car in Saudi-Arabia, remember to close your abaya when finishing and getting out of the car

-That said don’t pump milk in a car in Saudi-Arabia.

-Or rent a car with tinted back windows

-Always keep your iPhone charged on road trips in case accident

-Babies like to chew on plastic bags

-Babies like to play with anything ELSE than their own toys

-Always keep your baby in a car seat

-The scenery between Kharj and Wadi-Al-Dawasir  most likely the most BORING you will ever see in KSA.

-Saudi radio stations suck


Learn CPR:
Why you shouldn’t blindly stick your fingers in your babies mouth:

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  • IldiDecember 14, 2011 - 8:58 am

    Thanks God you solve it together to remove plastic bag item from your baby's mouth. Ahhh i felt to cross fingers to manage it sucessfully during I was reading your lines. Mommy, you have to have eyes on YOUR whole body to observe what she is doing each moments. :)

    May i ask her name? She must be a cute & 'go-ahead' lady! :)

    Wishing a lovely day for you!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 14, 2011 - 9:48 am

    Mudassir-ya there was camels at one point but seriously, during those hundreds of km, just a few compared to elsewhere on Saudi roads where there’s literally hundreds!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 14, 2011 - 9:49 am

    Ildi-ya I should have like 5 more pairs of eyes around my body!

    She is cute, but I might be a bit biased..her name is Lamia :)ReplyCancel

  • mudassirDecember 14, 2011 - 7:27 am

    Hehe.. I used to travel that way ( Kharj-Wadi Dawaser-Abha) every weekend and u r absolutely rite that there is NOTHING except the boring rocks leave alone the beautiful sand dunes..
    There were occasional camels and yeah they DO come on the roads(have seen numerous accedents involving camels) so they are'nt supposed to be taken lightly..
    Thank god ur presence of mind and practiceReplyCancel

  • NoorDecember 14, 2011 - 12:29 pm

    OMG alhumdullah you all were able to help her and that you just happened to be back there with her. It is scarey when your driving out in no where even when we go to Khobar my dh drives slow bc were always thinking if their is a wreck and were hurt we will have no help, its scarey.ReplyCancel

  • NoorDecember 14, 2011 - 12:29 pm

    BTW are you going to Kristas tomorrow? I am :)ReplyCancel

  • ExploreDecember 14, 2011 - 10:47 am

    Babies can give you the fright of your life! Thank God that everything was okay in the end.ReplyCancel

  • Proud MuslimahDecember 14, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    amazing, Layla. This story was a great combination of both hilarity (the ta-tas peaking out of abaya, never ending supply of rocks, English-speaking aliens on the radio) and suspense (your poor baby choking). Great story and you are absolutely right about learning about the safety methods for emergency situations. I worked at an elementary school and we had to be trained in CPR and First Aid and, I will be honest, Idk if I could remember all of the steps in an emergency. Taking another class is #1 on my list when I expect a baby.ReplyCancel

  • SoileDecember 14, 2011 - 4:46 pm

    OMG, how scary that must have been! Good thing that you managed to be so calm, and luckily it all finished well.ReplyCancel

  • KatyDecember 14, 2011 - 11:21 pm

    This is the funniest thing I read in a long time! I love how you tackle serious issues with a sense of humor.

    And you write so well, keeping the up the tension until the very end!ReplyCancel

  • ChickLitGirlDecember 15, 2011 - 9:09 am

    whooaa, close call. Allah ka shukar hai nothing bad happened.ReplyCancel

  • undertheabayaDecember 16, 2011 - 6:36 am

    alhamdulillah little princess is ok! first the paper shopping bag and now this! she’s going to put a big dent in baba’s wallet someday :)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 17, 2011 - 1:17 am

    Noor-yes we were every lucky nothing more serious happened! And I couldn’t come to Krista’s because I was in Buraidah at the food festival!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 17, 2011 - 1:19 am

    Proud Muslimah-thanks for understanding my humor! Sometimes I think ppl just don’t get that I’m joking!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 17, 2011 - 1:20 am

    habibil-amour-ya that’s true, but my dog in Finland is actually really picky and won’t accept many things as toys!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 17, 2011 - 1:21 am

    Explore & ChickLitgirl-yes thank God!!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 17, 2011 - 1:21 am

    undertheabaya-I know! The kid just loves chewing on bags!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 20, 2011 - 4:03 am

    Whoa! Now that’s a scary story! O_o’
    I probably would’ve panicked and done everything wrong ^^; but thank goodness you knew what to do! :)

  • AnonymousJanuary 25, 2012 - 6:41 pm

    I especially liked the iphone in the mouth for light. It brings me back to the day when I would pump on my break and run an extension cord from the hall of the office tower to the bathroom… then slip into the office kitchen with little warm bags of milk! Good on you!ReplyCancel

  • drtaherJune 17, 2013 - 3:07 pm

    This was a very good entry and the lessons you learned from the experience were so … comprehensive. You forgot one though: when someone’s life is at risk, to hell with the abaya. Shukrallah Lamia is fine. Great blog entry as always.

    Dr TaherReplyCancel

  • […] This ^ is camel herding for the modern day (or very lazy) Bedouin. Not much to see for about the next 500km. Read our near death experience from the trip here: […]ReplyCancel

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  • Nida Mumtaz, PakistanJune 3, 2018 - 12:31 am

    Fully agree with your take home message.
    Every one should learn basic CPR.
    plastic bags (especially very thin) should be avoided.ReplyCancel

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