U.S. News


Mom shares tragic story of son's death after swallowing screw

The Utah mother hopes the story of her 3-year-old's death can help save another child's life.
Posted at 10:55 AM, Jan 17, 2024

Three-year-old Ben Macleod loved to play at Magna Regional Park; his favorite attraction were the wheels he could spin all day long. Now, the park is a way for Amber Cloward to remember her son, just like the necklace she wears in his honor.

"Every morning he would come and climb into bed, he'd give me hugs, we'd fall asleep together, and then we had that inside joke of him calling me a brat," Cloward said.

Ben passed away on Dec. 29 from complications after he swallowed a screw that lodged in his throat almost two weeks prior. Cloward says she still has no idea where the screw came from.

"His dad started doing chest compression, I called the EMTs, then we tried to breathe for him, but we didn't know his vocal cords were already shut," Cloward recalled. "After that, he suffered a cardiac arrest, and then we did find out later he had a Chiari malformation, and so what that did is it made everything go from bad to worse."

Cloward says she was told if Ben survived, he would not be able to walk or talk the same.

Reema Padia, an associate professor at the University of Utah's Department of Otolaryngology, says choking can cause cardiac arrest, but it's rare.

"When the airway is involved that is always a risk," Padia said.

Padia says parents should look for clinical signs if their child has ingested a foreign body.

"Crying is actually a good thing for us — that means the airway is open enough to make sounds. If the child is turning gray or blue in the lips or around the lips, or not making any noises, those are times to be more concerned and call 911," Padia said.

If parents notice their child is struggling, Padia says one person in the household should call 911, while another takes action.

"If it's a baby or a kid that cannot stand upright, you would do back blows," Padia said. "So lay the infant face down on the forearm, then do some jolts to the back. If they are able to stand upright — so toddlers and older — you would stand behind them on your knees and similarly do the Heimlich there."

Cloward says she misses coming to Magna Regional Park and watching Ben go down his favorite slide and then sitting with his apple juice and clementine, but she hopes by sharing his story she can help another parent save their child's life.

"I know that we're not the first person whose kid swallowed something, but it made us feel really good that we were there and that we could help as much as we could," Cloward said.

GoFundMe has been set up for Ben's family.

For more information on what to do if your child is choking, you can visit this University of Utah Health page.

This story was originally published by Darienne DeBrule at Scripps News Salt Lake City.