Mom warns parents after 7-year-old dies playing with birthday balloons

FILE - Alexandra Hope Kelly, 7, died after playing with her birthday balloons in October 2023. GoFundMe/Kristi Tucker

A mother in Tennessee has issued a heartbreaking warning to other parents after her seven-year-old daughter died early this month while playing with her birthday balloons.

Alexandra Hope Kelly of Clinton, Tenn., celebrated her seventh birthday on Sept. 24. To ring in the festivities Alexandra’s mother, Channa Kelly, said she bought a 34-inch (over 86-centimetre) rainbow Mylar number seven balloon and about 10 Roblox-themed latex balloons. (Roblox is an online gaming platform popular with children.)

In a Facebook post, Channa said all of the balloons were filled with helium.

A week after her birthday party on Oct. 1, Channa and Alexandra together popped the balloons.

“As a parent I was always aware of the choking hazard of latex balloons, but never imagined that there was such a risk regarding these very large Mylar helium filled balloons,” Channa wrote.

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Channa said Alex asked to pop the large number seven balloon, and she approved.

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Later, Channa found the Grade 1 student seemingly unconscious with the deflated balloon over her head.

“I would have never imagined that she would have been able to fit this balloon over her head,” Channa continued. “I went to my bedroom unaware of any dangers with this type of balloon. I fell asleep briefly and when I woke up I found my daughter face down on the living room floor where I had left her.”

Channa said she initially thought Alexandra had fallen asleep, then noticed the balloon wrapped around her head.

The mother called 911 and began CPR. Alexandra was transferred to hospital in an ambulance but did not survive.

“I cried hysterically and was in utter shock and disbelief of what had just occurred, that my daughter and only child was actually gone,” Channa said.

Alexandra’s exact cause of death is not yet known, though Channa said she likely died as a result of either helium poisoning or suffocation. It will take several months to complete an autopsy.

“I hope by sharing our story that I can bring awareness and educate parents about the dangers of not only latex balloons but also Mylar balloons,” Channa explained in her post. “I hope and pray that this will prevent and save the life of other children. I wouldn’t want anyone else to experience the pain and devastation that the loss of a child brings.”

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Clinton police told local news station WVLT the incident is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, Channa’s sister-in-law has launched a GoFundMe page to help the family cover Alexandra’s funeral expenses. The page has already raised over US$14,700 (nearly C$20,000).

Alexandra’s mother said the girl enjoyed arts and crafts, swimming in her grandparents’ pool and playing with her family and friends.

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, latex balloons are the principal non-food item to cause choking deaths in children.

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