Toddler Dies After Inhaling Popcorn Kernel, Family Hope to Warn Others of the Danger

You would never think that a bag of popcorn that kids love to munch on could have hidden dangers lurking in them. Tragically, one family found out too late—and they hope to warn others.

Mirranda Grace Lawson, from Fauquier County, Virginia, was just a baby in arms, when at 2 years of age, on May 11, 2016, she began choking after a popcorn kernel became lodged in her windpipe. It was her mom Alison’s birthday, and she had decided to celebrate it at home with her husband, Patrick, and their four children. Patrick had taken the day off work to surprise his wife, and the family spent the day celebrating.

On a GoFundMe page, her relatives recounted: “At the end of Alison’s birthday, Mirranda ran into the living room. Eyes huge, no sound. Time stopped. Those were the last moments they shared before Mirranda fell to the ground; they swept her mouth, nothing; Pat started CPR. The ambulance got there, Mirranda’s heart stopped.”

Mirranda had inhaled a piece of popcorn—it was lodged in her throat and blocking off her airways.

“Then … there was hope. Mirranda’s heart started beating, she was intubated and placed on a ventilator and transferred to Children’s Hospital at VCU.”

Doctors declared her brain dead and wanted to conduct an apnea test, which would involve removing her from life support to see if she could breathe on her own.

However, her parents refused and took the fight to the courts, arguing their little girl just needed time to recover, reported NBC. The weeks slowly passed, and then finally the judge made a ruling to allow the hospital to proceed with the test. Again, the family appealed the ruling, but sadly, little Mirranda passed away during the appeal.

The family posted an update on GoFundMe: “This journey has been so very unexpected and difficult. Mirranda fought strong and in the end God chose to call his angel back home in early November. Although her time on earth was short, she made a difference in the lives of many. Sharing her story with other families has help raise awareness about the surprising choking hazards that surround us every day. Many of you shared her story, and likely saved a life.”

Choking is one of the three main causes of death in children under 3 years of age.

To prevent infant choking, according to the Mayo clinic:

  • Properly time the introduction of solid foods. Introducing your baby to solid foods before he or she has the motor skills to swallow them can lead to infant choking. Wait until your baby is at least 4 months old to introduce pureed solid foods.
  • Don’t offer high-risk foods. Don’t give babies or young children hot dogs, chunks of meat or cheese, grapes, raw vegetables, or fruit chunks, unless they’re cut up into small pieces. Don’t give babies or young children hard foods, such as seeds, nuts, popcorn, and hard candy, which can’t be changed to make them safe options. Other high-risk foods include peanut butter, marshmallows, and chewing gum.
  • Supervise mealtime. As your child gets older, don’t allow him or her to play, walk, or run while eating. Remind your child to chew and swallow his or her food before talking. Don’t allow your child to throw food in the air and catch it in his or her mouth or stuff large amounts of food in his or her mouth.
  • Carefully evaluate your child’s toys. Don’t allow your baby or toddler to play with latex balloons — which pose a hazard when uninflated and broken — small balls, marbles, toys that contain small parts or toys meant for older children. Look for age guidelines when buying toys and regularly examine toys to make sure they’re in good condition.
  • Keep hazardous objects out of reach. Common household items that might pose a choking hazard include coins, button batteries, dice, and pen caps.

To be prepared in case of an emergency, take a class on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and choking first aid for children. Encourage everyone who cares for your child to do the same.