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A child choking during a car journey

08 Mar by A parent
5 minutes

Travelling by car with my Son Charlie on my own always causes stress, I've always found it difficult to find ways to entertain him, it's usually a case of scheduling frequent stops to settle him along the journey.

I had arranged to visit family in North London the day it happened, I needed to go home for a work call, and I could hear Charlie (just turned 3) begin to get really unsettled. The noise and distress had begun to affect my driving - it was the most regretful decision of my life, but I so needed to find something to stop the distraction. I had a bag of humbugs in my bag, before giving Charlie the hard sweet I sucked it myself to soften it. I told Charlie to chew the sweet as I passed it over to him to buy myself some time to get through the journey.

Charlie was quiet, I thought for a moment phew, as I drove, I remember speaking to him asking him to chew, darling are you ok? He was still silent. I started to panic. I just knew. I could see a parking spot along the dual carriage way. I pulled over and turned to him, his eyes were wide, and he looked so afraid, he just wasn't responding to me. I had done first aid years ago, but I froze, terrified, and began to shake, I had no idea what to do. I started to scream and wave towards passing cars 5, then 10 cars passed me without stopping, then a car pulled in behind mine.


I screamed, nothing of any sense left my lips, I couldn't find the words. A lady got out the car and came running towards me, I don't recall what I said to her. She looked in the car and I do recall saying 'he’s had a humbug' without hesitation she asked me to call 112, undid Charlie's straps and carried him to the roadside, as far from the cars as possible, she put him over her knee, gave 5 back blows, and then gave Charlie what I now know to be called abdominal thrusts. Charlie was starting to get floppy. She stayed calm and, on the 4th, thrust above his abdominal area, the sweet came flying out and shortly after he began to scream. During this time, she asked me to open her phone and tap on the app 'what 3 words' whilst I was on the phone to the emergency call handler, our location wasn't easy to describe. The 3 words allowed the ambulance service to find us easily.

The above happened in minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. My thoughts took me to such a dark place, I have never ever felt such terrible panic and guilt.


After Charlie was comforted, I could see that the lady was wearing a Tigerlily Training T-Shirt, she had just finished delivering a first aid course and was on her way home. Thank goodness for this wonderful human, without a doubt, she saved his life. We waited in the car, and she observed Charlie before the Ambulance arrived and the staff took over to assess him. Charlie was taken to hospital and was allowed home later that evening after he was checked by a doctor.


I'd say to any parent, please don't do what I did. Plan your journeys ahead, be late for the work call, never give food to children in the car, and take the time to learn the basics of child first aid.  Thank you to our wonderful Tigerlily hero!


A true story by Charlie’s Mum.

Tigerlily Training says “ We’d recommend not offering any form of hard boiled sweets to children as they can easily become lodged in their airway and booking onto a Paediatric First Aid course to learn what to do in the event of a medical emergency.

The What 3 Words app is free to download and you can advise of your location if you are somewhere unfamiliar. This can help the emergency services to locate you. to book your next Paediatric First Aid Training Course and more.