'He died twice on the floor': Shrewsbury mother recalls her terror as son choked on toy ball at family home
When Carrie Owen bought a pack of bouncy balls from Home Bargains, she did not imagine that they would almost kill her son.
She picked them up in the party aisle of the store, and took them home.
“We were in the utility room bouncing these balls against the wall because they’re a bit of fun,” says the mother-of-two. “At no point did I ever think that my child would put that in his mouth, not for a second.”
But that is what happened. It was Good Friday and Carrie, 38, was at home with her two children, Toby and Darcey, as well as her husband Rich.
They were having work done on the kitchen so the house was full.
“I had decided to make cakes with my daughter Darcey. Toby was happy in the front room at the time watching TV with a friend,” she says. “I started mixing the cakes and something came over me, I needed to check on Toby. It was just an instinct. I dropped everything and ran to the front room. Something didn’t feel right.”
She was more right than she could imagine. When she entered the room, her boy was holding his throat, and turning blue.
“He was going blue, you could see his lips going blue and the panic in his little eyes,” she says.
She called for her husband, but did not know what Toby, then aged just two, was choking on.
“I turned him upside down and tried to shake it out of him, hold him upright to do the back thrust. I couldn’t get it out, nothing was dislodging it,” she recalls. “His eyes were going back in his head. He couldn’t breathe.”
Carrie’s dad Ian phoned the ambulance.
“Rich got his finger in Toby’s mouth and could feel something there but didn’t want to put any more pressure in case it went further down,” she says.
Toby’s jaw then clamped shut. A 999 operator on the other end of the line told them: “Commence CPR”.
“You just don’t believe it,” continues Carrie. “On the concrete floor of the kitchen there was this little two year old boy not breathing. We were losing him fast.”
Rich, along with a neighbour, started CPR, doing chest compression and mouth to mouth and constantly talking to Toby.
“He died twice on the floor. It was just carry on, carry on. You could just see there was nothing left in him, but we were never going to give in,” says Carrie.
“The minutes passed and then at some point blood started coming out of his nose and the ambulance arrived not long after that.”
Somehow the ball came out while the paramedics were tending to Toby. Carrie didn’t see it happen, but it did.
“What you see on TV with a massive breath just didn’t happen,” she said. “We nearly lost him.”
Toby, now three, was taken to hospital by ambulance after Carrie had carried him out the house. He was in and out of conciousness in the ambulance all the way from the family home in Shrewsbury to Telford.
“He was so determined to not let go,” she says.
After being placed on oxygen Toby recovered throughout the day and evening in hospital. A normally talkative toddler, he hadn’t said a word.
“We were sitting on Rich’s phone with Toby looking at photographs and he saw a picture of the four of us and said everybody’s name ‘mummy, daddy, Toby, Darcey and our dog Bear,” says Carrie. “That’s when I just burst into tears. That fact his voice chords hadn’t been damaged, that his memory hadn’t been affected. How his little body being starved of oxygen for nearly six minutes, how was there no damage to him? It’s a miracle.”
Carrie is no stranger to seeing terrible sights. She was previously a scenes of crime officer with the police. But nothing could prepare her for seeing her son, nor returning home the following night.
“The day it happened he bled from the nose on that floor, and I remember going home the following day,” she says.
“Toby had gone to bed and I sat there for ages watching him sleeping. I went downstairs into the kitchen and I saw his blood on the floor. That was horrific.”
Toby is back to his usual self and is a happy, talkative little boy. On March 30 this year, the anniversary of the incident, the family went to Anglesey for the day.
“I didn’t want to clock watch, I wanted to avoid the time,” she says. We did a cheers ‘cheers to Toby being alive’. You don’t cheers those things, it’s not a normal thing to do. But he is alive and we all celebrated.
“I don’t think we would do this every year because it could become a morbid celebration, but that first year I didn’t want to be at home.”
Carrie believes it was the CPR and first aid which really helped save her little boy’s life that day and in her role as fire safety officer at STAR Housing she has become passionate about first response training.
Part of this has seen her lead a project which has seen defibrillators installed in all of the housing association’s properties, and she hopes to encourage more people to learn life saving skills.
She also believes that more should be done in school and antenatal classes so parents and children alike are prepared for an emergency. Toby’s tale shows one can happen at any time.