A grieving mother has revealed the final word her precious little girl spoke to her before she choked to death on her favourite snack.
Samantha Lennon stopped to do a quick grocery shop after her daughter Imogen finished her swimming lesson in Canowindra, in central west NSW, on January 16.
Her five-year-old’s favourite snack was a cocktail frankfurt and she gave her child the food to eat on their drive back to the family dairy farm.
Imogen had been chatting away from the back seat before she suddenly went quiet and she began to choke on the snack.
Mrs Lennon recalled turning around in fear after her daughter called out for her with a single word that would be her last.
Five-year-old Imogen (above) choked to death on a cocktail frankfurt in regional NSW town Canowindra on January 16
‘She said, “Mum” but it was the strangest sounding “Mum” ever,’ Mrs Lennon told 7News.
‘I looked back and her lips are turning blue and I can see she’s choking.’
Mrs Lennon is first-aid trained and did everything she could to help Imogen cough up the food, but her daughter could not be saved.
The distraught mother learned afterwards about a small tool that could have saved her daughter’s life and called for greater awareness around the product.
The simple device is called LifeVac and it has saved 747 lives worldwide, including 449 children.
It was introduced to Australia six years ago, though it is still largely unknown. Now Mrs Lennon aims to help change that to save other families from going through the tragedy the Lennons have experienced.
LifeVac has a suction mask that fits over a person’s mouth with a small pump on top.
The person working to clear the blockage stuck in a patient’s throat grabs the handle on top of the pump, pushes down and immediately releases – bringing the blockage to the surface.
Mrs Lennon said half of the frankfurt Imogen was snacking on became lodged in her throat.
Mrs Lennon ‘drove like hell’ to Canowindra hospital immediately after trying to resuscitate her daughter in the car.
No ambulances were available and there was no doctor at the hospital.
Two nurses and a cleaner tried to help clear Imogen’s airway while her dad Bill, rushed to her side.
Tragically, little Imogen could not be resuscitated and she died.
‘I thought I was dreaming, it was a nightmare,’ Mr Lennon said.
LifeVac (above) is an airway clearance device that uses suction to pull blockages out of a patient’s throat
Imogen’s devastated parents Bill and Sam Lennon (above) said they tried everything they could to help Imogen before she tragically died at Canowindra hospital
‘I was just saying, “Come back, come back, come back”, but as my friend as said to me, God would have asked, “Do you want these beautiful wings?” And she would have went, “Oh heck yeah”,’ Mrs Lennon said.
The family home is full of reminders of Imogen: her drawings on the walls, her toys where she left them on the dining room table.
There is even a stack of her clothes on the lounge.
‘Nothing prepares you for when you see something as simple as her name missing on your Medicare card,’ Mrs Lennon said.
When they brought Imogen’s ashes home, the family at first didn’t know what to do with them, but then they knew where to put her.
‘We have her sitting on her bed surrounded by all her toys, so it’s a safe space, it’s a love space,’ Mrs Lennon said.
In another heartbreaking revelation, it turned out that Imogen had only just been fitted with a hearing aid.
‘On the Monday before she died she had got a hearing aid because she had some health issues … and she said, “Oh Mum, this is what my voice sounds like”,’ Mrs Lennon said.
‘So, for one whole week she got to know what her voice truly sounded like.’
Mrs Lennon has now launched the group Imogen’s Mission to help raise awareness about children’s choking and devices that can help in a crisis.
‘If we can get people to know about the LifeVacs and have them in cars, homes, schools and preschools and they can save a child’s life, Imogen would be so proud,’ she said.
‘We do not want another family to have to go through what we’re going through because it’s just the worst kind of pain that you could ever feel.’
Former paramedic Simon Gould said standard first aid procedures aren’t always effective for large blockages and urged people to invest in LifeVac.
‘Considering we only have a small space of time, we can’t muck around and just keep trying the same things over and over again and failing,’ he said.
For more information on LifeVac, visit its website.
Former paramedic Simon Gould (right) said LifeVac helps clear large blockages that standard first aid can’t
HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO SAVE A CHOKING PERSON?
Time is of the essence when somebody begins to choke. The average response time in Australia is between eight and 14 minutes.
- 4 – 6 minutes of oxygen starvation means brain damage is possible
- 6 – 10 minutes of oxygen starvation means brain damage is probable
- Over 10 minutes of oxygen starvation means the victim is likely to die
Many people around the world cannot receive conventional treatment for choking due to pregnancy, disability, age or obesity.