Three days ago Texas mum Ashton Zager was busy chasing her one-year-old son, Hank, around the house – cleaning up his many messes and cherishing those cheeky cuddles that toddlers love to give. 

Just a few hours later she was rushing him to hospital, watching as doctors tried to save him after he choked on a muffin.

Heartbreakingly, Hank didn’t survive and Ashton left the hospital without her baby boy. All because of a muffin. An ordinary, soft, fluffy muffin.

Ashton and Hank Zager - baby dies from choking on a muffin
Some of the last photos taken of Ashton and Hank

There are no words when a tragedy like this happens. No words to make it better, to make the pain go away, to make sense of it all.

But, through the absolute heartbreak, Ashton did find the words to tell her son’s story. By telling her story of Hank she is reminding every single parent out there how precious our time is with our kids and how important it is to know First Aid.

Hug your little ones tightly after reading this mums and dads – it’s a devastating story.

‘He choked on a muffin’

As Ashton writes,

My baby died tonight. Hank died. And I’m still in shock so I’m writing it now. He died.

He choked on a muffin. An ordinary muffin. My child who inhaled bananas and oranges and all the scary foods with ease choked on a single bite of banana muffin.”

baby chokes on muffin - hank zager

At the time of the incident, Ashton did all the right things – she called 911 (000). She tried the Heimlich manoeuvre. Subsequently, Hank was rushed to the hospital and didn’t even lose consciousness.

‘We thought it was going to be okay. But it was not.’

For three hours the hospital staff tried to save him, but they couldn’t. As Ashton explains, his heart gave out and Ashton and her husband, Casey, were told they would need to say goodbye to their son.

They called us back in to tell us we could hold his hand while they performed compressions for two more minutes.

I sang to him during that time. Cried to him. Yelled at him that his story was not over. That he wasn’t ever supposed to happen so it didn’t make sense this would be the end of his story. He was supposed to go on and have an incredible story. His brother, who named him, needed him to come home and continue to be his sidekick. That’s why we named him Hank Watson.

I told him to come back. He didn’t come back.”

Hank had just turned one. Just a few days before Hank died, he and his big brother, Lou, celebrated with a joint birthday party. Never in a million years would anyone had thought Hank would only live to experience one birthday party.

Hank Zager - child chokes on muffin
Sweet and smiley, little Hank had only just turned one.

Ashton writes,

I’m still in shock and I think I’d like to never come out of it. I don’t know what tomorrow will look like or where this journey will go. Our people are here taking care of us. I just feel like I want to tell everyone. Because maybe they could just mourn for me and I won’t have to feel it. Maybe this is a nightmare I’ll wake up from tomorrow.”

‘Bad things are just bad things’

To lose a child is by far the worst pain anyone could ever go through – one that most of us don’t even want to imagine. It leaves us with no answers to thousands of questions.

How could this happen? Why did this happen to my son? When will I wake up from this nightmare?

Ashton and Hank Zager

Ashton has asked them all. And, so far she hasn’t found the answers. And maybe she never will. But, she reminds us…

I know that we live in a broken world and broken things happen. Sometimes bad things are just bad things that coexhist with good things. And that’s okay. And I’m mad and I’m sad and I’m very very confused.”

Our hearts go out to Ashton, Casey, and little Lou. We send her the strength to get through this unimaginable tragedy.

What to do if your baby is choking

Hearing Hank’s tragic story reminds us just how important it is to be prepared, especially when it comes to a baby choking. Bad things happen every single day and, while we can’t control them, we can arm ourselves with as much knowledge as we can.

According to St Johns Ambulance, over 40% of parents have witnessed their own baby choking. However, when quizzed on the correct method of first aid almost four-fifths didn’t know what to do in the situation!

Please, take the time to watch the 40-second video below on what to do if your child is choking.

Additional safety tips

We have a number of other important articles on First Aid and child safety including:

We hope you’ll never need this knowledge, but when it comes to the safety of our precious children it’s always a matter of better safe than sorry. Little Hank’s untimely death is a stark reminder of this.

Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

2 Comments

  1. According to his daddy’s Instagram post, the medical examiner found a bean in his airway- so he actually didn’t choke on a soft, fluffy muffin. You might want to update the information.

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