Mom says teenage son almost died when lung ruptured while inhaling nitrous oxide at festival

16-year-old Alex Littler was forced to admit to doctors and his devastated mother that he inhaled nitrous oxide at Parklife in Manchester over the weekend

Alex had to be honest with doctors and his mother
Alex had to be honest with doctors and his mother

A teenager “almost died” when his lungs ruptured after inhaling nitrous oxide at a festival.

Alex Littler was rushed to hospital on Monday after complaining of a swollen throat, shortness of breath and how his chest felt like “bubble-wrap bursting” to the touch because air was leaking from a ruptured lung.

The 16-year-old was forced to confess to doctors and his devastated mother Cathy McCann, 44, that he inhaled nitrous oxide at Parklife in Manchester over the weekend.

The 11th grader was diagnosed with a ruptured and leaking lung by medics – and told he was lucky to be alive;

However, doctors warned he may need surgery to remove air that was trapped around his lungs and heart.

Alex in the hospital


Kennedy News and Media)

He had to be honest with the doctors about inhaling nitrous oxide


Kennedy News and Media)

Nitrous oxide is bought in canisters and used legally for anesthesia or as a propellant for whipped cream.

However, it is sometimes pumped into balloons to be inhaled by those looking for a “high”.

Beauty therapist Cathy says the ordeal was terrifying and Alex has vowed never to inhale the drug again, admitting he was unaware of the dangers.

Cathy, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, said: “He said it was the worst thing he could have done.

“He wasn’t even aware of what the dangers were and he did it because all his buddies did.

“I come home from work Monday night and he was in bed. I asked what was wrong because he never goes to bed and he said his chest was dead and he felt breathless.

“When I pressed his chest it was like bubble wrap, he was in pain and his throat was swollen.

“You only had to squeeze it a little bit and it crackled and crunched. I panicked and dialed 911.

“They said to take him straight to the hospital. The doctor listened to his chest and felt the popping.

“I’m panicking, they’re asking questions about whether he had injuries, was crushed in a crowd, lifted weights or did anything that could have caused the damage.

“He said no to all of that so they told him to be honest and asked what he took with him because we said he’d been at Parklife.”

Alex’s X-ray of his lungs


Kennedy News and Media)

Alex and his mother Cathy


Kennedy News and Media)

Alex was forced to admit that he had tried nitrous oxide balloons, which caused his mother to “burst into tears”.

She said: “I couldn’t believe it, he said he had nothing.

“It annoys me to think about it, it’s awful. It could have been deadly. It could have killed him.

“His lung has a hole. The gases can affect your spinal cord, get into your brain, and kill your brain.

“I was upset because I didn’t know all the facts about these gases. He was petrified.”

Alex claims he has tried the drug before but promised his mother that he and his friends would not touch it again.

Doctors determined that Alex’s lungs were leaking and began repairing themselves, trapping air around his lungs and heart.

Oxygen was used overnight to remove the trapped air without requiring Alex’s surgery.

Cathy said: “His friends are devastated, they were constantly on the phone and posting on Snapchats saying they don’t want to see anyone making balloons.

“I don’t think half of them knew what they could do.

“Doctors have told him if he does it again he’ll be back in the hospital because he has a weak spot in his lungs now.

Alex at the party


Kennedy News and Media)

He inhaled the gas at the Parklife Festival in Manchester


Kennedy News and Media)

“It’s a danger because if it didn’t repair itself it would make a bigger hole and it would have been fatal.

“He would have ended up dead or paralyzed or brain dead.

“Alex was totally shocked. That’s when it hit him – when he saw your mother sitting there crying because we’re a close family.”

Doctors told Alex he is lucky to be alive and the 16-year-old has vowed not to do so again.

Cathy added: “He’s not in trouble because it was such an ordeal, he learned a big lesson so I didn’t have to tell him anything.”

Cathy and Alex tell their story to warn of the dangers of party drugs.

Cathy said: “I don’t think parents know the concept and what they are because some people think they’re just party balloons.

“Nobody knows the depth and the consequences. 16 year olds die, people messaged me their son died.

“I would like to emphasize there, the dangers for the parents as well, not just for the children. You don’t know what’s happening, it’s happening right under everyone’s nose.

“Parents should go to the parties they go to and see what’s going on because they all do.”

On Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police shared images of industrial bins filled with kilos of nitrous oxide canisters seized by officers at the Parklife festival.

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Police wrote: “One of our public promises is to prevent and reduce crime.

“As part of our community action for Bury South, officers from Parklife Festival have seized several kilos of nitrous oxide.”

Selling nitrous oxide for its psychoactive effects became illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, but it is not currently a criminal offense to be caught in possession of the drug.

Parklife has been contacted for comment.

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