Doctors fail to pick up problem
PATRICE WHELAN was shocked to find out a starfish sticker wedged in her 10-month-old’s throat had been there for two months.
She knew something was wrong with her son Whiti but no doctor could discover what the problem was.
Whelan and partner Peter Piriniha thought Whiti was having an asthma attack when he started making gurgling noises on February 2.
‘‘He fell over and started choking. Then he threw up and went floppy. We called an ambulance straight away,’’ the mother-of-three says.
The sticker went unnoticed by multiple hospitals and a long list of doctors over two months.
Whelan, 26, is upset it wasn’t detected by the first doctor who saw Whiti at North Shore Hospital.
But the hospital’s emergency department clinical director Dr Willem Landman says Whiti was stable, alert and happy when he was admitted.
‘‘Waitemata District Health Board stands by the quality of the care provided to Whiti,’’ Landman says.
He says there were no signs of distress, shortness of breath, coughing or any other symptoms consistent with choking on an object, and that neck and chest X-rays didn’t suggest an obstruction either.
‘‘Whiti was observed for three hours to ensure he was safe to go home. This observation period was uneventful and he was even able to tolerate clear liquids and yoghurt with ease.’’ But Whiti’s breathing got worse. Whelan says she visited numerous doctors and Whiti was given five lots of steroids, two lots of antibiotics and penicillin.
‘‘And all for nothing,’’ she says.
‘‘He didn’t put on weight for those two months. Before then it was a kilogram a month.’’
Whiti eventually saw a doctor at Starship Children’s Hospital months after the incident, who placed a tube down his nose, located the sticker and operated on him immediately.
‘‘If the ambulance had taken us to Starship Hospital, we would have been taken much more seriously,’’ she says.
Whiti is now 13 months old and is ‘‘basically back to normal’’.
In the meantime his 8-year-old sister isn’t allowed stickers for a while.
Whelan says her daughter is ‘‘absolutely obsessed with stickers’’.
The youngster felt terrible when she found out her brother had swallowed one.
The couple laid a complaint against North Shore Hospital and expect a response soon from the Health and Disability Commissioner.
The Health and Disability Commissioner told Fairfax Media they don’t discuss individual cases but will keep the complainant up to date with progress.