'Our lives have changed forever' - Family's devastation after woman (29) choked to death on piece of steak
Mother of woman who choked on steak backs new safety campaign
The heartbroken family of a woman who choked to death on a piece of steak just weeks before her 30th birthday are raising awareness of the dangers.
It is just over six weeks since Sherry Campbell (29) died at her home, and the grief is still very raw for her mother Fionuala.
"Our lives have changed forever," she said of the loss she and her husband Shannon suffered.
Sherry was fit and healthy and should have been celebrating her 30th birthday this month, but in a terrible tragedy, she choked on a piece of steak.
Fionuala said she did not want any family to go through what they are suffering, and said she was now aiming to raise awareness about the hazards of choking.
The Sherry Campbell Foundation - founded after the young woman's death by family friend Danielle Elmes - is backing a new choking-prevention public information campaign.
Fionuala travelled to Dublin yesterday to talk about its important work, with more than 125 deaths in Ireland each year caused by choking.
Sherry had an idyllic childhood beside the water at Orlock, near Groomsport, in Co Down.
She was an only child - "a miracle baby" for her parents, who had feared they would not be able to have any children. But the rugby fan's life was cut short on September 7.
The family had eaten steaks cooked by Sherry. There was a piece left over, so that was put aside to cool to go in the fridge, Fionuala recalled.
She and Sherry went next door to see Fionuala's sister Deirdre, and they had a glass of wine together. It was a Wednesday night, and the two women then went home.
"I left her sitting in my family room, and I said 'Goodnight sweetheart, see you in the morning'," said Fionuala.
"I went to bed. It must have been at 11.30pm. At a quarter to four, my husband woke me, and he said 'All the lights are on. Sherry must be downstairs'. So he went down the stairs and then I heard an almighty scream. He actually did shout 'She's dead, she's dead!'"
Sherry's body was in the kitchen. Fionuala ran next door to get help. Resuscitation was attempted, but it was too late.
"And then I lay with her from five o'clock on the floor. I could see the obstruction on her neck," Fionuala said.
"I sang 'My Cherie Amour' to her. My husband just told her how much he loved her."
Sherry was brilliant with children, and ended up working in the same school - Strangford College - as her mother as a teaching assistant.
The new #BeChokeAware campaign has been launched in conjunction with the Life Vac, Promed Home's new choking assistance device that can be used alongside general choking guidelines in an emergency situation. Promed Home will donate a percentage of the sales of the Life Vac to the Sherry Campbell Foundation. It is available at www.promedhome.ie.