Volume 18 • Issue 41 | February 24 - March 2, 2006

Tribeca boy dies choking on a pill

By Alex Schmidt

The last result a parent would expect from attempting to aid a child’s nutritional intake through vitamin supplements would be the death of the child. Yet that was the very nightmare that visited Marcy Lynn and Wayne Burkey when their 4-year-old son, Cooper Burkey, choked on a vitamin pill last Thursday in front of his mother and twin sister.

Police sources said that they responded to a call for help at 12:57 p.m. at the family’s Franklin St. home only to find Cooper unconscious and not breathing. He was pronounced dead on arrival at New York Downtown Hospital.

The vitamin on which Burkey asphyxiated was a Garden of Life Perfect Food Super Green supplement, a pill nearly one inch long and not chewable.

The Garden of Life Web site makes the recommendation that children take 1.25 – 2.5 caplets per day, with or without water, but does not specify what age defines a child. Gayle MacIntyre, a spokesperson for Garden of Life, communicated the company’s sympathies to the Burkey-Lynn family, but would not comment on whether the company would modify the pill’s usage specifications.

Attempts to contact the family were unsuccessful.

Dr. Andrea Levine Rockland of Village Pediatrics said, “I absolutely wouldn’t recommend young kids taking any pills unless they were mashed up. Four-year-olds can’t swallow pills in general. Usually around kindergarten is when you teach kids to swallow, but usually first graders aren’t even doing it.” She said even if Burkey had taken the pill before, children are still mastering the techniques of chewing and swallowing, and pill swallowing does not come naturally.

Claire Barnett, executive director of the Healthy Schools non-profit organization where Cooper’s parents are members, said in a statement: “I’m so sorry for the family who wanted to do the right thing, only to have this follow.”


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