Wednesday 21 August 2019

'It was the scariest three minutes of my life' - mum's warning after son almost died in peanut accident

David pictured in hospital
David pictured in hospital
David Healy pictured with his mother Grace and his father Philip

Ralph Riegel

A mother has urged parents to take basic life saving training after revealing how a freak accident with peanuts almost cost her two year old son his life.

Grace Healy, a South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) nurse in Cork, revealed but for intensive cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) her little boy David would not have made it to Kerry and Dublin hospitals for life-saving surgery.

"I wasn’t sure whether to write this but if it can help save a life then I feel a sense of duty to spread the word," Grace explained.

The young mother was on holidays in Kerry with her husband, Philip, and son David when the freak accident occurred as the toddler stuffed some peanuts into his mouth as he played.

David Healy pictured with his mother Grace and his father Philip
David Healy pictured with his mother Grace and his father Philip

Grace attempted to take the peanuts away from the child amid safety concerns.

"He began to cry but before he did, he took the biggest breath of his life in. He started coughing and I said: 'He is choking.' I turned him around and did five back slaps. Loads of peanuts fell out of his mouth, but he still couldn't breathe and was turning blue quickly.

"Philip immediately called 999 and I continued with the back-slaps. But his colour was worsening so I continued working on him.

"Then my worst fear happened - he went completely limp and unresponsive. I knew there was something blocking his airwaves and the only thing I could think of was mouth to mouth.

"I did a head tilt and a chin lift and gave the two biggest breaths of my life after blocking his nose. Almost immediately the colour started improving."

But for Grace's quick thinking and ability to perform CPR, little Daniel would likely not have made it to hospital where he later required life saving surgery.

Several of the peanuts had gotten lodged in his lungs.

"It was the scariest two minutes, 58 seconds of my life. Never during my career as a nurse did I think I would have to do three minutes of intense CPR on my own child."

Having helped partially stabilise his condition, Grace accompanied David as he was rushed to University Hospital Kerry (UHK).

However, doctors there decided he needed expert surgical care and he was rushed to Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin.

Because of the weather and time, it was not possible to undertake an air medevac so David was rushed by ambulance with a dedicated medical team at his side.

A chest X-ray revealed the toddler had a blockage in his left lung and required emergency surgery.

"An ENT consultant, came over from Temple Street and he saved David's life," Grace said.

"He told us it was the most difficult case in his entire 23 years of surgery and they nearly lost him many times in the theatre.

"They found four whole peanuts in his left lung and peanut fragments.

"He just kept repeating how lucky he was to survive surgery."

For a time, the little boy had to be kept on a ventilator as he recovered from the surgery.

"The doctors were sure he was  doing well but three hours later he was rushed back to ICU and back on the ventilator. His right lung was now failing and he needed more surgery," she said.

"I remember my husband Philip asking the consultant 'are we sending my son to die', because he was critically unstable and because of the risk of the surgery."

However, the brave little boy fought through the surgery and, just over 10 days later, was finally able to breath on his own. He is now set to make a full recovery.

Grace said the shocking incident underlined how vitally important it is for parents and family members to have a basic knowledge of CPR and life-saving techniques.

"We just couldn't believe that one minute David was playing with his older brother in his grandparent's house in Ardfert, Co Kerry where we were having the best weekend of our lives," she said.

"He just picked up a bag of peanuts and began stuffing them into his mouth."

She urged people to take CPR training and learn from her family's nightmare experience.

"It could make the difference for your child or someone's child," she said.

"I did not save David's life that day - it was CPR saved him. Please, please learn CPR and keep your skills updated."

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