NATIONAL: A NSW mother is warning other parents about the dangers of balloons and how quickly tragedy can occur, following the choking death of her 11-month-old son.
"I didn't know how dangerous they were until this happened," Ashleigh Chapman, 19, said.
"Then someone tells me, 'this is the cause of death', so I Google it... I shouldn't have to Google something like that to know how much of a killer balloons are.
"I would do anything for all this to go away and have my baby back. I wouldn't wish it on anybody."
The community has rallied to offer financial support for the family of Heath Andrew, who died last Thursday.
On that day, Ms Chapman went to the kitchen, and after hearing a series of coughs, found her son lying on the ground, unresponsive.
Heath was soon taken to hospital, but was eventually pronounced dead.
An autopsy found Heath, Ms Chapman and partner Jesse McLean's only child, had died after choking on a balloon.
The party balloon, which had been blown up for fun and not yet fully deflated, had become lodged in his windpipe.
Ms Chapman said she wanted to create greater awareness of the dangers of balloons, including calling for larger warning labels on balloon packets.
"Everyone thinks balloons are toys and fun, but... Button batteries, there's a massive thing about that, and you pack button batteries away because they're dangerous, and they can kill," she said.
"You hear balloons, and they're fun, they're party decorations. I know they're a choking hazard, but when you have a baby, anything and everything is a choking hazard.
"But it's just that not many people know how much of a hazard (they are). Not just a choking... But it's a killer."
Friend Breanna Sanderson has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for Heath's family.
As of Friday evening, more than $10,000 of the $14,000 goal had been raised.
"We have no words to describe the grief that their family is experiencing right now, and many friends and family have asked how they can help at this difficult time," Ms Sanderson said this week.
"I have set up a GoFundMe account to help them cover the costs to help honour Heath's life and towards any other expenses at this time, so this young family has less burden while grieving their son's tragic passing."
Ms Chapman thanked the community for their support, and said the funds would be used for his cremation and "a nice headstone for when we're ready to pick a place".
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