Family, EMS recount frightening scare as little girl chokes on balloon

Medical Watch
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CHICAGO -- It was a typical family gathering on Sunday, August 30. Seven-year-old Mia Rodgers had been blowing up a balloon while playing with her cousins. She took one deep breath in, and in an instant, it was down her throat.

Officer Peter Pietrusiewicz, Chicago Police Department: “My partner and I were on routine patrol, and a man ran into the street hysterically waving his arms, flagging us down telling us, ‘We got a girl down over there, we got a girl down over there!’”

Estevan Rodgers, Mia’s father: “It was real fast. She fell in my arms, and I proceeded right away to try and get the balloon out. I knew that by me panicking and freaking out it would not help her. I proceeded with CPR. She was already turning purple and blue.”

Officer Pietrusiewicz: “She had her eyes open, but it was a blank stare. It looked like she was just gasping for air. My partner then took over and started doing chest compressions.”

Officer Victor Alcazar, Chicago Police Department: “I have two kids at home and seeing this little girl, you want to take action right away so just jumped right in there.”

Brendan Hehir, paramedic, Chicago Fire Department: “When we arrived on the scene, I could see at the very base of her throat was a green balloon. Her pulse rate was going down from about 150 beats a minute down to 40, which means she’s on her way out. My partner Ron tossed me an instrument we have called the McGill forceps. I put the forceps in her throat to try and pull the balloon out.”

Ron Kent, paramedic, Chicago Fire Department: “And as he went in she took like a last second gulp breath, and you just saw it disappear. And we just kind of looked at each other like, ‘Let’s go.’ We got her right into the ambulance where we had the suction ready. As I’m suctioning I kind of held it there a second longer, I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I felt the balloon, I could see the balloon coming and I just shouted, ‘I got it, I got it!’ If we didn’t get that balloon out there was not a good outcome, for sure she was not going to make it.”

Brendan Hehir: “I turned around he was pulling an entire balloon out of her throat, a big green balloon like this. This one was by far the scariest run I’ve ever been on because when we got there she was still breathing and then died basically in our arms.”

Mia’s pulse rate shot back up to normal range, but she still wasn’t breathing. The EMS team continued oxygen as they rushed her to a nearby hospital, where Mia was intubated and eventually transferred to Lurie Children’s and placed on a powerful ventilator.

Mary Otting, EMS coordinator, Lurie Children’s: “We were very lucky as was the family, she was turning the corner, we were able to get her of the ventilator and she was starting to wake up pretty well.”

Chantel Carroll, Mia’s mother: “When they took that off she started to move, she opened her eyes, she nodded yes to questions.”

Mia spent six days in the intensive care unit. But it was the actions taken in the seconds after she swallowed the balloon that made the critical difference.

Chantel Carroll: “The neurologist said that her dad and that officer that gave her CPR they saved her life, they saved her brain. I’ll be forever grateful to both of them for doing that.”

Estevan Rodgers: “I pretty much knew what I had to do keep her heart pumping until the ambulance got there. I’m just glad as a parent I learned -- I never got my certificate -- but I learned how to do CPR.”

Officer Alcazar: “I couldn’t get her out of my mind for a while, trying to find out if she was ok, if she made it.”

Brendan Hehir: “Ron and I talk about it almost every shift.”

Ron Kent: “I haven’t stopped thinking about her. I’m a man of faith. I go to church, I pray a lot, and I prayed for this little girl a lot.”

Two months after they helped save her life, the team met Mia after school. The second grader who is acing her math exams drew them pictures.

Mia Rodgers: “I think they’re very awesome.”

Ron Kent: “This is why you get into this stuff, so you can see the kid afterwards, so it’s awesome.”

And you can save a life, as well. The first line of defense here was bystander CPR – chest compressions are what really made the difference for Mia. So when in doubt – get involved.

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