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3-year-old chokes on grape, may never walk or talk again

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Three-year-old Tessie Avila went 18 minutes without taking a breath.

“I walked in the house, of course I freaked out. What's going on?” Tessie’s mother, Liz Avila, said.

On July 18th, Tessie choked on a single grape.

“I just prayed to God so hard just for him to bring my baby back,” Avila said.

Paramedics were able to resuscitate Tessie, but her life will never be the same.

Nearly 20 minutes without oxygen left her with severe brain damage.

Doctors say she may never walk or talk again, all because of one grape.

“You never know what can happen,” Avila said. “Life can change in an instant.”

Tessie's parents want to make sure what happened to their little girl doesn't happen to any other child.

“It's within 30 seconds that you see that they can lose consciousness and have color changes,” Dr. Barb Calkins, a pediatrician at Westbrook Pediatrics in Brookfield said. “It needs immediate intervention,”

Dr. Calkins says food items like raw vegetables, large chunks of meat, hot dogs, and nuts can be dangerous for young children. She says a child’s food should be cut into 1/2 inch, "pea-sized" pieces.

“A child's airway is actually just a little bit bigger than that size, so it can completely cut it off and not allow air to go in and of their windpipe,” Dr. Calkins said.

Contrary to popular belief, when a child is choking she says you should not put their arms above their head or try to get the food out of the child's mouth with your finger.

She says that can actually push the item deeper into the airway.

Instead, if the child is older than one, Dr. Calkins says to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

“This is something where you’d stand behind the child and put your fist above their navel but below their breastbone and do forceful thrusts up and inward,” Dr. Calkins said.

If the child is under one, she says put the baby face down on your arm and repeat five back blows and five chest compressions.

“What that will do is produces enough pressure within the abdomen and the airway to forcefully dislodge the object,” Dr. Calkins said.

She says another way to prevent choking is to make sure that children are always supervised and sitting down while they are eating.

Aside from food, Dr. Calkins says kids can also choke on small items you may have around the house.

She says some of the most common culprits are coins, batteries, paperclips, and small toys.

For more information about choking prevention, please click here. 

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