Bereft Mom Warns Parents to Throw Out Thumbtacks After Tot Dies From Inhaling a Pushpin

April 8, 2021 Updated: April 8, 2021

A heartbroken mom is warning parents to throw out all thumb tacks after her 4-year-old son died when he inhaled a PUSHPIN in January.

Ayla Rutherford was getting in the shower when she heard her family screaming downstairs, before rushing in the room to find her husband Josh, 29, performing the Heimlich maneuver on their little boy, Axel.

The 29-year-old still had no idea what had happened when she realized their efforts were failing as Axel lost consciousness and started to turn blue.

After rushing the little boy to the hospital, doctors found he had not been choking but had inhaled a common household pushpin, which had pierced through his left lung and left him unable to breathe.

Epoch Times Photo
Ayla Rutherford, 29, shows type of pin her son inhaled before he died. (Kennedy News and Media)
Epoch Times Photo
Axel Rutherford, 4, with mom Ayla, 29, from Washington state (Kennedy News and Media)

After a week on life support and four brain death tests, the young boy tragically passed away in his parents’ arms—leaving his family to agonize over how a simple piece of stationery could have taken their boy away forever.

Ayla and Josh are now warning others to throw out any pins they have in their home to prevent their children suffering the same tragic fate.

Ayla, from Graham, Washington, said: “This was freak accident.

“All I want to do is prevent other people going through what we have to go through.

“I want to let people know that [pins are] such a normal thing to have in your house—to hang up posters, picture frames, Christmas lights, calendars.

“Everybody uses them and all it takes is for one little kid to pick it up, put it in their mouth, inhale it and puncture their lungs.

“If you have pins around the house, throw them out or lock them up. It’s not worth your child’s life or the pain.

“Me and my husband held Axel as he passed away. He was four years old, one month and four days old.

“I don’t want anybody to have to go through this.”

Epoch Times Photo
Ayla Rutherford with Axel and older son Soren (Kennedy News and Media)

Ayla had just finishing baking her oldest son Soren’s birthday cake when she heard Josh screaming that there was something wrong with Axel.

Within minutes, the tot had lost consciousness and was turning blue, as Josh and his dad Stuart tried to do CPR, desperately waiting for ambulance sirens to whirl down the street.

Ayla said: “As I was getting ready, my husband started calling me and screaming that there was something wrong with Axel.

“I immediately ran downstairs and I saw my husband and in-laws around him trying the Heimlich maneuver.

“We thought my kid was choking—he wasn’t breathing. He was trying but he couldn’t. I was crying and screaming.

“My mother-in-law called 911 and my husband kept trying to get whatever it was out of [Axel’s] mouth. We thought he was choking.

“We’ve dealt with [choking] before when they’re babies. You get it out and it’s fine, but my son lost consciousness and he was turning blue. My husband and father-in-law immediately started CPR.

“It felt like the longest moment of my life waiting for those sirens.

“It felt like forever but eventually one of my neighbors across the street heard me screaming and crying.

“He started chest compressions [too]. It was a three-way of trying to keep oxygen in him.

“Eventually the [paramedics] showed up and tried CPR, then they started the paddles.

“They kept trying and trying until eventually they had to load him into the ambulance and rushed him to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.”

Epoch Times Photo
Axel Rutherford, 4, on life support in the hospital before he passed away in January (Kennedy News and Media)

At the hospital, doctors searched for hours before finding out what had happened to Axel.

After failing to find anything blocking his throat, a scan revealed the boy had a pushpin wedged “between his ribs” after having punctured his left lung.

Ayla said: “They said there was nothing in his throat to get out. We had no idea what was going on and why this was happening.

“At about 6pm, the doctor told me they’d finally found the problem. A thumb tack had punctured his left lung and had blocked the way for his right lung to breathe too.

“He couldn’t get oxygen no matter what. They found the pushpin between his ribs on his left side.

“It took about two hours for them to remove the pin because when you’re not breathing, your throat closes up.

“They had to do a tracheotomy and cut a hole in his throat to get it out. They eventually got it out and it was just a regular size thumb tack.

“This is a kid who never put things in his mouth. It was the first time.”

After the two-hour surgery, Ayla and Josh were able to visit their youngest child, who was hooked up to life support as he could no longer breathe for himself.

The pair were warned it was unlikely Axel would recover.

Epoch Times Photo
Four-year-old Axel Rutherford from Washington state before he passed away (Kennedy News and Media)

Ayla said: “After they removed the pin we got to go visit him. That was really hard.

“The doctors pretty much told us that because he was without oxygen for so long and went into cardiac arrest five times, he wasn’t going to come back from that.

“They told us not to hope, but we did anyway.

“He was on life support. It was breathing for him because he was no longer breathing on his own.”

Axel was in hospital for three days but made no recovery.

His parents were told medics would do a brain death test on the tot which required two tests, 12 hours apart.

After one doctor saw Axel’s pupil twitch slightly, she was unable to confirm he was brain dead, so the couple had to repeat the ordeal before receiving the devastating news that their second born would not survive.

Epoch Times Photo
Mom-of-two Ayla Rutherford, 29, with husband Josh, also 29 (Kennedy News and Media)

Ayla said: “We were praying really hard. I was like ‘please don’t take my baby. Don’t take him from me.’

“They’d done an EEG where they monitor brain waves and it showed he had none.

“At the first brain death test, me and his daddy and the doctor were there. It took half an hour and she told us it showed signs of brain death. We wanted to do the second one.

“Our entire family showed up for that test. It was midnight the next day that they did the second test.

“This doctor said that he showed a tiny, miniscule sign of brain life. They could not declare him brain dead which gave us all hope, because we were hoping so hard and praying so hard.

“His pupil twitched a bit and when they took him off life support, he tried to take a breath. He tried.

“Me and Josh would go and visit him. We’d visit him in the afternoon and evenings and read books, sing songs with him and tell him that we loved him.

“On the 16th, me and my husband and Soren were out going on errands when we got a call from the doctor about around 1pm saying he did a brain death test without us knowing.

“He told me and Josh we needed to go to hospital soon. We dropped Soren off at home and the doctor told us he was really aggressive with Axel to see if he could get any brain activity. He didn’t.”

Epoch Times Photo
Axel Rutherford’s urn and urn arrangement (Kennedy News and Media)

Doctors declared Axel brain dead at 1:35 p.m. on Jan. 17. The family had a memorial service and cremated him on Feb. 6.

Ayla and Josh then faced breaking the shattering news to Soren, who had just celebrated his birthday without his brother by his side.

Ayla said: “We let Soren see Axel at the first brain death test. We let him give him a kiss, say ‘I love you, brother’ then he went back out.

“He was screaming. He wanted his brother to wake up.

“We kept telling him that Axel wouldn’t wake up. He’s six—he doesn’t understand death yet.

“That day we came home, me and his daddy sat him down and told him Axel died. You use real words. You don’t tell him he passed away or he’s gone. You tell him that he died. You use real words—even though they hurt.

Epoch Times Photo
Four-year-old Axel Rutherford, from Washington state, who died after inhaling a pushpin (Kennedy News and Media)

“We told him that he died, and we had to explain that he’s with Jesus and no longer sick, but he wouldn’t be coming home anymore.

“He cried for five minutes then said, ‘I want to go watch TV.’ He’s special needs and didn’t really understand.

“He brings him up all the time. Today we were doing home-schooling and he asked me when he was coming home.”

Now Ayla is warning other parents to be wary of the stationary materials they use around their children after the life-changing accident forced her to say goodbye to her “energetic” and inquisitive little boy at just 4 years old.

Ayla said: “If Axel had swallowed it, he’d have been okay. It might have punctured his intestine or his stomach and he’d have told me his tummy hurts, then we’d have taken him to the hospital.

“Axel was so energetic. That boy would not sit down. He was so smart and he loved Rubik’s Cubes.

“He loved magic tricks. For Christmas, he got a top hat and he loved costumes. Ninety percent of all my pictures of him involved costume.”

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.

Share your stories with us at, and continue to get your daily dose of inspiration by signing up for the Epoch Inspired newsletter at