Cheree Lawrence is a mum-of-four from Brisbane. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum
Cheree Lawrence is a mum-of-four from Brisbane. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum

Mum warns: Snack nearly killed my 3yo

A Queensland mother has issued a warning after her three-year-old daughter "nearly died" from eating popcorn.

Cheree Lawrence, 34, shared the shocking story on her blog Oh So Busy Mum last week, detailing how the seemingly innocent snack food left her little girl hospitalised in a serious condition with lasting lung damage.

A HARMLESS SNACK

Ms Lawrence has four daughters, now aged between 4 and 13, and lives in Brisbane.

She is a well-known blogger who updates more than 300,000 social media followers on travel, lifestyle and parenting tips each week.

According to the busy mum, her four children had snacked on popcorn all through their lives without any problems.

So when her daughter, three years old at the time, asked for a snack, she didn't hesitate to hand over a bowl of popcorn.

"My three-year-old was happily sitting on the lounge chair eating a bowl of plain popcorn when she coughed and choked a little," Ms Lawrence said.

"I didn't think anything of it and gave her a drink of water."

Ms Lawrence said her girls have been eating popcorn for most of their lives. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum
Ms Lawrence said her girls have been eating popcorn for most of their lives. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum

But within minutes, the toddler's condition worsened, and her cough soon turned into a deep wheezing noise.

The Brisbane mum didn't realise at the time, but her daughter had aspirated on a piece of popcorn she had just ingested.

"We watched her, and over the next 30 minutes, her wheeze started to get worse, so we decided to take her to the emergency room," she said.

 

THE EMERGENCY ROOM

Ms Lawrence raced her daughter to the nearest emergency department, and by the time they had arrived, "her wheeze was quite scary and she had loud stridor".

A stridor is a high-pitched, wheezing sound that occurs when a person's airway is blocked - in this case, by a piece of popcorn.

Doctors surrounded their tiny patient in a resuscitation area of the hospital, desperately trying to figure out what had happened to her.

"I told them about the popcorn incident and explained what had happened soon after," Ms Lawrence said.

"They immediately administered steroids, adrenaline and started her on Ventolin bursts."

Ventolin is usually prescribed to asthma patients, but Ms Lawrence said her daughter was perfectly healthy and had never shown any signs of having developed asthma.

 

 

Despite the medication, nothing seemed to completely stop her daughter's symptoms, so Ms Lawrence continued to remind the attending team of the popcorn she had just eaten, convinced it was the cause of her suffering.

"The doctors and nurses didn't seem to think it was connected because she was responding to treatment," Ms Lawrence said.

Doctors discharged the little girl the following day, putting the episode down to a "sudden onset of asthma".

Her mother wasn't comfortable with the diagnosis but took her daughter home and continued to monitor her.

"They told us that if it was the popcorn, she wouldn't have improved with Ventolin and treatment," she said.

Doctors put the little girl on steroids, adrenaline and Ventolin. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum
Doctors put the little girl on steroids, adrenaline and Ventolin. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum

A SUDDEN CHANGE

Several days after Ms Lawrence took her daughter home again, her fierce wheezing symptoms returned and she was "struggling to breathe once again".

She was raced back to hospital, where a second doctor told Ms Lawrence it was "unlikely" her daughter had aspirated on a piece of popcorn, even refusing to take an X-ray of her lungs.

Her daughter was discharged again from hospital with some asthma medication.

 

SYMPTOMS CONTINUED

A fortnight later, Ms Lawrence's daughter was displaying breathing issues with alarming regularity - a "constant wheeze" that left her in a great amount of pain and distress.

She was unable to run, swim or play because of her wheezing, so she was taken back to hospital for the third time.

There, doctors simply prescribed her more Ventolin and steroids, but the little girl's mother had officially had enough.

"Three weeks after she first choked, I was over it and sick of watching her struggle to breathe," Ms Lawrence said.

"The doctor was frustrated with me and assured me she was fine and to keep up the Ventolin when needed."

 

Sure enough, upon Ms Lawrence’s insistence, doctors were able to locate a piece of popcorn on her lung. Picture: OhSoBusyMum
Sure enough, upon Ms Lawrence’s insistence, doctors were able to locate a piece of popcorn on her lung. Picture: OhSoBusyMum

In a desperate attempt to end her daughter's suffering, she took her to a local GP who was "really concerned after listening to her chest".

They were booked in for an immediate X-ray, which revealed the little girl had developed pneumonia and inflammation on her lung.

Ms Lawrence was told to take her daughter to the emergency department immediately, accompanied by a stern letter from the doctor, instructing them to investigate her issue seriously.

 

EMERGENCY SURGERY

The same afternoon, Ms Lawrence and her family were waiting anxiously for news after her daughter was taken into emergency surgery.

Doctors removed the piece of popcorn she had aspirated on five weeks earlier.

According to Ms Lawrence, it was too late, and the damage had already been done.

"The popcorn had caused some damage to her lung because it sat there for five long weeks and slowly started breaking down," she said.

"I don't want to think about what could have happened if I didn't take her to see the private specialist."

Ms Lawrence wants to warn parents to “always listen to your gut”. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum
Ms Lawrence wants to warn parents to “always listen to your gut”. Picture: Instagram/ohsobusymum

TRUST YOUR GUT

Ms Lawrence said her family's horrifying ordeal had taught her to "always trust your gut instinct".

"I had no idea how dangerous it is for young children to aspirate on or that children under five shouldn't have popcorn at all," she said.

"Doctors can and do get it wrong all the time, and us as parents know our children and know when something is off with them."

She said she wanted to share her story so "other parents know the dangers of giving young children popcorn".

"I ignored my gut instinct and put all my trust in what doctors were telling me (because how could so many doctors get it wrong?) and it could have very well cost my daughter her life," she said.

 

Continue the conversation @Rhi_lani or email rhian.deutrom@news.com.au

The dark spots on each slide show the popcorn piece. Picture: OhSoBusyMum
The dark spots on each slide show the popcorn piece. Picture: OhSoBusyMum

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