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Grieving mum shares daughter’s devastating final words before she choked on snack


When mum Samantha Lennon gave her little girl Imogen one of her favourite snacks driving back from swimming lessons, she never imagined it would mean the five-year-old would not make it home.

Imogen was happily “chatting away” in the backseat eating a deli Frankfurt — a favourite treat she had enjoyed countless times before — when suddenly she went quiet.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: The food that presents biggest choking hazard for kids.

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“She said, ‘Mum’ but it was the strangest sounding ‘Mum’ ever,” Lennon recalled to

“I looked back and her lips are turning blue and I can see she’s choking.”

Lennon tried desperately to save the youngster but with no ambulances or doctors on duty in Canowindra, a regional town in NSW’s Central West, it was a race against the clock.

By the time help arrived, “it was just too late”.

Lennon wants other parents to be aware of the dangers of young children choking and to expand their first aid kits to include a LifeVac — a device both she and a choking expert say could have saved Imogen’s life.

Picking up the pieces

Lennon will forever be haunted by the devastating sound of her little girl calling out for help on January 16.

“For that to be your own child’s last words, ‘Mum’,” she said, speaking through tears.

Lennon “drove like hell” to get Imogen to hospital only to discover there was no doctor on duty, just two nurses and a cleaner.

The nurses did all they could to help and Lennon even stepped in to perform CPR on her little girl, pushing her own terror to the back of her mind.

“With time all these other people came and the helicopter landed and police came, all these people paying her aid but unfortunately it was just too late,” she said.

“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’.”

Imogen Lennon, five, choked on a frankfurter sausage while coming home from swimming lessons. Credit: Supplied

Coming to terms with the loss of Imogen has been an unimaginable struggle, Lennon says, but it is the little things that have hit the hardest.

“Nothing prepares you for when you see something as simple as her name missing on your Medicare card,” she said.

The family home is filled with reminders of their “caring little girl”, from drawings adorning the walls to toys sitting where they were last used.

“She’s everywhere you look in our house … her pile of washing is sitting on the lounge, her little Paw Patrol toys she’d been playing with on the dining table, the time just hasn’t been right to move them,” Lennon said.

“She was the most kind, funny, loving child that just absolutely adored animals.”

Imogen had her whole life ahead of her, so when the time came to take her ashes home her family “didn’t know what to do”.

“We have her sitting on her bed surrounded by all her toys, so it’s a safe space, it’s a love space,” Lennon said.

The five-year-old was just about to start school and had dreams of becoming a vet.

“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’,” she said.

“So, for one whole week she got to know what her voice truly sounded like.”

Imogen Lennon has been remembered by loved ones as a “beautiful” little girl with a zest for life. Credit: Supplied

A lasting legacy

Imogen’s family is determined to keep her legacy alive and use her death as a warning for other parents.

Lennon, who is trained in first aid, knows there is nothing else she could have done to save her little girl until she heard about LifeVacs — an airway clearance device that has already helped save 449 children from choking.

“I’d never heard of it before and it was after Imogen passed a friend told me about it,” Lennon said.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ … I have a first aid kit in my car … if I had known something like this existed, I would have that in my car.”

Former paramedic Simon Gould, who has studied choking for 35 years, says LifeVac could have saved Imogen and countless other children from choking deaths.

How a LifeVac works. Credit: LifeVac/Supplied

The anti-choking device helps parents, carers and professionals by creating a suction that is equivalent to “about three to four times what can be produced with the best first aid measure in the world”, Gould says.

“We saved a 10.5-month-old in WA from choking on a sausage — that was a week after Imogen died from a frankfurt,” he told earlier.

“It was the same scenario. Virtually the same piece of food, first aid failed in both circumstances, one person had a LifeVac and the other one didn’t.”

So far, LifeVac has saved 747 people globally, including 449 children — and the tally could be higher since not all customers report using the device in such stressful situations, Gould added.

Lennon has 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.”

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Source: 7News