Devastated mum warns of dangers of helium balloons after death of five-year-old son from Gateshead

Family photo
Karlton Noah Donaghey has been described as a "was a total character" by his heartbroken mother Lisa. Credit: Family photo

A heartbroken mum whose little boy died after trying to climb inside an inflated dinosaur is warning of the dangers of helium balloons.

Lisa Donaghey said she found her five-year-old son Karlton on the floor of their home with the large balloon over his head and neck.

He was given CPR and flown from his home in Dunston, Gateshead, to Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary where he spent six days in intensive care.

But doctors said there was nothing more they could do and Karlton's ventilator was switched off.

Ms Donaghey said: "Karlton had a caring nature and he always thought of others. He was polite and he was mischievous, he was a total character.

"He was my little best friend and my little sidekick, we did everything together from morning until night."

Karlton was the youngest of the 43-year-old's four children.

Lisa Donaghey with her :little best friend" Karlton, aged five. Credit: Family photo

The family were enjoying a sunny day in the garden at Ms Donaghey's home on 23 June.

Recalling the day, the devastated mum said she had gone in to the house to check on Karlton, who had gone to the toilet.

"When I came in he was on the floor with the balloon over his head and his neck," she said. "It was a dinosaur balloon which was the same size as him. 

"I think he's put himself in the balloon to be a dinosaur to go outside and surprise his nieces. I pulled the balloon off him and I screamed.

"I think I carried him to the patio door. As a mother, I knew he was gone, he was unresponsive. He had his eyes wide open and he was pale."

Neighbour Amiee Morrison carried out CPR on Karlton until paramedics arrived.

"I just collapsed outside on the grass," added Ms Donaghey. "I screamed and screamed and screamed. I couldn't bear to come back in. My little boy was getting worked on. I was numb with fear and terror.

"Amiee took over from Kaitlin (Ms Donaghey's daughter) and she didn't give up. She worked and worked and worked on my boy until the ambulance arrived and they took over.

"She was just fantastic and I'm so grateful. It took four minutes for the ambulance to arrive but it felt like four hours."

Karlton was airlifted to hospital where his mum met him after being transported in a police car with blue lights. Credit: Family photo

Karlton was airlifted to hospital where she met him after being taken in a police car with flashing blue lights.

She said: "I remember a consultant stating that he was in a really bad way. I just hit the floor, I couldn't get up. I was crying: 'My baby boy, my baby boy'. It was just horrible."

Ms Donaghey said she did not leave Karlton's side while he was in critical care at The Great North Children's Hospital.

"I read to him and I sang to him," she added. "I washed his face, his fingers and his hair. I put Vaseline on his lips and I made sure he was clean. 

"His heart was beating itself and his stats seemed to be showing improvement but he was suffering massive seizures. The last seizures affected him pretty badly. He wouldn't be able to function, everything was damaged.

"He was trying to fight on but I knew he was fighting with a little ounce of energy, it was taking it all out of him. 

"I told him: 'Just close your eyes and rest' and: 'Don't worry about mammy'. I promised my little boy that it wouldn't break me.

"They took the sedation off him and he deteriorated rapidly. I had the opportunity to lie in bed with him, to hum and sing in his ear and cuddle him on my chest until his little heart stopped. My little boy just went to sleep and he looked so beautiful.

"I knew as a mother I wasn't going to bring him home. I'm just grateful to have had the six days with him."

Karlton's cause of death has not been confirmed but the family believe it was due to helium inhalation. Credit: Family photo

The cause of Karlton's death is believed by his family to be the result of inhaling helium though this is yet to be determined by a coroner.

Ms Donaghey now wants to warn others about the dangers of helium.

"It's a toxin that can take a life in seconds," she said. "It's very dangerous. It's taken my son's life, he was just wanting to playfully be a dinosaur.

"It can take a child's life and it can take an adult's life.

"I want parents, grandparents, childminders, adults, students, anyone that has come into contact with helium to be cautious about the ways they use it and dispose of it. 

"A precious five-year-old has been taken too soon and I would never ever put this pain on anybody."