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Family receive €12,500 settlement after 'medical debris' left in infant's throat following surgery

The child’s mother said she brought the case to ensure something like this does not happen to anyone else.

Image: Shutterstock/ldutko

THE FAMILY OF a young boy who was left with medical debris in his throat following a surgery have received €12,500 in compensation.

Jill Crawford, of Corkey, Manorcunningham, Letterkenny, today told Circuit Court President, Justice Raymond Groarke that the main reason she instituted proceedings was to ensure “this does not happen again to some other family, where the consequences might be even worse”.

Barrister Paul O’Neill, counsel for the couple’s six-year-old son, Bobby Johnston, told the court that the then three months old baby had been operated on in June 2012 to correct a partial cleft lip and had been discharged from the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin, with an obstruction in his airway.

O’Neill, who appeared with Jane Lanigan of Lanigan Clarke Solicitors, Letterkenny, said Bobby had become ill to such an extent that he was days later rushed back to the emergency department of the Children’s Hospital where, during an examination, he vomited “a pink moulding gel material” that had lodged in his throat during the earlier operation.

Jill Crawford told the court in an affidavit how her baby had gagged and retched at home as he tried to breathe through thick mucus saliva. 

“He was so unwell that our family clergyman drove half the length of Donegal to be with him and was shocked to see how low he was,” Crawford said.

O’Neill said that from medical reports it was revealed that a throat pack had not been inserted in Bobby’s throat during the initial surgery to prevent saliva, blood and other surgical debris from tracking down in the pharynx and respiratory tract.

As a consequence of pink alginate gel having entered his airway and remaining there on his discharge from hospital, Bobby developed a moderate to severe post-operative chest infection which had resulted in his readmission to hospital.

Bobby was at “such very serious risk” that his parents, fearing an ambulance would take too long, had been advised and decided to drive him back to the hospital with an admission recommendation from their GP.

O’Neill told Judge Groarke that it while Bobby was being re-examined on his return to the hospital’s emergency unit that a wooden spatula had been used to keep his mouth open.  This had caused him to vomit up some of the foreign material in his airway.  It turned out to be a pink mould gel.  He twice vomited up more of the gel.

The court heard that on discovery of the reason for Bobby’s condition he received medical treatment but throughout a six weeks recovery had suffered discomfort, distress and pain.

O’Neill said Bobby had sued the hospital for medical negligence through his mother and a settlement offer of €12,500 had been made.  He recommended its acceptance to the court.

He said Crawford was more concerned that some other child might suffer even worse consequences than about the amount of the settlement.

Judge Groarke, approving of the settlement, said he felt it was better that the family put their very difficult experience behind them.

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Ray Managh

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