A North Carolina mother who says she’s still in shock is raising awareness after her son died from choking on a muffin.
Ashton Zager took to Facebook on Sept. 17 to share a heartbreaking warning in the wake of the death of Hank, her 1-year-old son.
“My baby died tonight. Hank died. And I’m still in shock so I’m writing it now. He died," she said.
Zager explained that Hank had already been exposed to a wide variety of foods, which he was able to consume without issue, and that she never expected that a simple food like a muffin could pose such a serious hazard to her baby.
"My child who inhaled bananas and oranges and all the scary foods with ease choked on a single bite of banana muffin," she continued.
After her son became distressed, Zager said she called 911 and performed the Heimlich maneuver. She said she remained optimistic because Hank never lost consciousness, but once they got to the hospital, things took a turn for the worse.
"They worked on him for almost 3 hours I think," Zager wrote. "I'm still really confused why they couldn’t just pluck the single bite of muffin from his throat but they couldn’t. And his heart gave out. And they performed compressions for nearly an hour before they called us back in to tell us we could hold his hand while they performed compressions for 2 more minutes."
"I sang to him during that time," she continued. "Cried to him. Yelled at him that his story was not over. That he wasn’t ever supposed to happen so it didn’t make sense this would be the end of his story. He was supposed to go on and have an incredible story. His brother, who named him needed him to come home and continue to be his sidekick. That’s why we named him Hank Watson. I told him to come back. He didn’t come back."
Zager's devastating post has since racked up more than 144,000 shares, as well as hundreds of comments from well-wishers across the country.
At least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the U.S., and more than 12,000 children are taken to a hospital emergency room each year for food-choking injuries, according to the New York State Department of Health.
Food is one of the most common choking hazards for young children, as many do not fully chew their food and instead try to swallow things whole, especially children under 4 years of age, notes Nationwide Children's Hospital.
In particular, the hospital cautions against feeding young children high-choking-risk foods such as hot dogs, nuts and seeds, chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes, candy, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, raw vegetables, raisins, gum and marshmallows.
The CDC also recommends parents have their child sit up while eating, either in a high chair or another safe place, and avoid eating in the car, stroller or while lying down. The agency also warns parents to pay close attention while their kids are eating, as accidents can occur with all kinds of food, not just items considered high risk.