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Paramedics help save toddler’s life after she swallows a coin

April 6, 2019 | in Community News, News, Patient story

A mother of four has thanked paramedics after her daughter swallowed a 10 cent coin and needed emergency surgery.

Tilly, 3, was at home in Rupanyup while her mum Alison was standing only metres away.

“We were getting our carpets cleaned and – like any child – Tilly wanted the money to pay. She kept nagging me to hand her my purse, so I gave her a coin to play with and didn’t think much of it,” Alison said.

“I turned around for one second and all of a sudden she started gagging and holding her neck.”

When Alison frantically asked Tilly whether she had swallowed the coin, Tilly nodded and pointed to her throat and said, “I can feel it right here.”

Tilly was conscious and occasionally coughing, but could not swallow water. This is when mother’s instinct kicked in and Alison dialled Nurse on Call “just to be safe.”

When the call-taker heard Tilly struggling in the background, she immediately transferred the call to a Triple Zero (000) operator who dispatched an ambulance.

Within minutes, the Rupanyup ambulance crew arrived.

Paramedics Gemma and Kerry assessed Tilly and loaded her for transport to Wimmera Base Hospital.

“They were so wonderful,” Alison said. “They could see that Tilly was getting drowsy along the way so one of them started to sing songs trying to keep her alert, and they were both really good with her. They gave Tilly a blow-up helicopter to try and calm her down, and she seemed to like that.”

Gemma and Kerry also requested a MICA backup after Tilly’s condition worsened in the ambulance.

“When the MICA paramedic arrived and met us on the way, that’s when I knew this was more serious than I had thought,” said Alison.

At Wimmera Base Hospital, Tilly had an X-ray while sitting up because laying down was impossible with the positioning of the coin.

The X-ray showed the 10 cent piece stuck directly in the three-year-old’s oesophagus, prompting emergency surgery to remove it.

Since then, Tilly has made a full recovery and visited the local ambulance branch. “I wanted her to know that ambulances aren’t scary things,” Alison said. “And I think sitting in an ambulance without panic has helped.

As for the coin? It now sits in a specimen container.

Alison plans to have it made into a necklace for Tilly’s 21st birthday so that it permanently rests on the outside of where it was once stuck.