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Mother's Warning After Daughter 'Nearly Died' After Eating Popcorn

A mother from Brisbane has issued a desperate warning after her daughter became seriously ill after eating popcorn. 

Cheree Lawrence, 34, shared the story of her daughter's five-week ordeal on her blog Oh So Busy Mum, where she urged parents to advocate for their children.

"Please remember to always trust your gut instinct and to advocate if needed for your child," Lawerence wrote.

"She had eaten popcorn before; all my kids have grown up having popcorn in their lunchbox. I had no idea how dangerous it is for young children to aspirate on, or that children under 5 shouldn’t have popcorn at all."

It all started when Lawrence gave her three-year-old a snack of popcorn. It appeared the child choked on one of the kernels as she swallowed it and so Lawrence gave her a drink of water to wash it down.

"Within minutes she developed a cough and started wheezing -- not realising the seriousness of it or knowing that she had actually aspirated on popcorn. 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, Lawrence wrote on her blog.

When they arrived at the hospital, a team of doctors worked to determine what was causing the wheezing and coughing. Lawrence said she mentioned that her daughter had recently eaten popcorn, but claimed doctors weren't interested in that detail.

Lawrence said every doctor they spoke to agreed the little girl wouldn't have responded to treatment of steroids, adrenaline and Ventolin if the popcorn was an issue. Her daughter was admitted to hospital and was released the following morning with a diagnosis of "sudden onset of asthma".

"While I didn’t quite believe it, I accepted it, as every doctor we saw agreed it wouldn’t be the popcorn, because she improved with Ventolin throughout the night. They told us that if it was the popcorn, she wouldn’t have improved with Ventolin and treatment," Lawerence wrote.

But days passed and the wheeze returned. Lawrence took her daughter back to the emergency room, however, they were told while it's possible she aspirated on popcorn it was unlikely because she responded to treatment. The doctor also said there would be no point to having an x-ray.

READ MORE: Should Three Dead Children Be 'Slightly Looked Over'?

A third visit to the ER didn't prove any more fruitful, so Lawrence booked an appointment with her GP to get to the bottom of the asthma-like symptoms, especially since her daughter didn't have asthma.

Oh So Busy Mum
Photo: Oh So Busy Mum

Lawrence claimed the GP was immediately concerned and sent her for an x-ray which showed her daughter had pneumonia and inflammation on her lung. Next stop was a respiratory specialist who sent Lawrence and her three-year-old back to emergency with a stern letter, instructing doctors to investigate the issue further.

"That afternoon she was taken into emergency surgery to remove the piece of popcorn that she had in fact aspirated on 5 weeks earlier. It was too late! The damage was done. The popcorn had caused some damage to her lung because it sat there for 5 long weeks and slowly started breaking down," Lawrence said on her blog.

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Lawrence urged parents to advocate for their children and to implement Ryan's rule -- is a process in Queensland where families can raise concerns if they feel like their child isn’t receiving the care they require, or symptoms are getting worse.

"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."

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au