Mum raises awareness after daughter chokes on grape

Iris with her mum, Kate.
Iris with her mum, Kate.

A mother wants to raise awareness about choking hazards after a grape got lodged in her young daughter’s throat.

Ackworth parents Kate and Gavin Pickering were driving near Doncaster when their five-year-old Iris, who has Down’s syndrome, suddenly started struggling to breathe.

But her parents have said that call handlers would not send an ambulance because it was not deemed an emergency.

Mrs Pickering, 35, said: “We were coming back from holiday and my little girl was sat in the back of the car.

“At first we didn’t know what was wrong, she just started screaming and struggling to breathe.

“We had to pull on to the hard shoulder to try and find out what was wrong with her. Then she pointed to some grapes.

“We were on the motorway in a pretty dangerous place so we pulled into the first drive we came to.”

The homeowners came out to help – but by this point Iris was foaming at the mouth and her breathing was becoming worse.

Mrs Pickering, of Doncaster Road, said they were referred by 999 call handlers to the NHS 111 service, which would not send an ambulance and told them to go to hospital.

“They said it was not an emergency,” she added.

Fortunately, as the panicked couple rushed to Doncaster Royal Infirmary the grape dislodged itself.

After their 40-minute ordeal they are urging parents to cut up grapes and other small foods commonly eaten by children.

And although Iris’s airways are narrower than most children’s because of her condition, this was the first time that the family faced a choking incident.

“We did not know what to do and it was so frightening,” said Mrs Pickering. “I want to create some awareness.”

She also wants to encourage parents to sign up to first aid courses.

A spokeswoman at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: “We would like to apologise for any distress caused as a result of our response to this 999 call.

“We are already in contact with the family through our Patient Relations Department and are looking into the specific details of this case. We will be responding to them directly regarding their concerns.

“We would like to reassure members of the public that our priority is to provide a safe, responsive and high quality service to the people of Yorkshire.”