By Ray Managh
A mother with her leg in a cast travelled hundreds of miles yesterday to deliver a message to a court that might save children from a similar, if not fatal, trauma experienced by her son.
Jill Crawford’s baby had suffered a potentially life-threatening condition following surgery.
She travelled from north Donegal to Dublin to tell Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke:
Ms Crawford, despite having injured her leg in a recent accident, attended the proceedings in a leg cast and on a wheelchair pushed into court by her husband, Mark.
Barrister Paul O’Neill, counsel for the couple’s six-year-old son Bobby Johnston, told the court the then three-month-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.
Mr 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 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.
Ms Crawford from Corkey, Manorcunningham, Letterkenny, 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,” she said.
Mr O’Neill said that from medical reports it was revealed 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 the hospital, Bobby had 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.
Mr O’Neill told Judge Groarke that while Bobby was being re-examined on his return to the hospital’s emergency unit 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 he received medical treatment but throughout a six weeks’ recovery had suffered discomfort, distress and pain.
Mr 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 Ms 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 the family put their very difficult experience behind them.