A 13-month-old baby boy died after ingesting a 5cm metal screw that lodged deep in his windpipe.
Mikolaj Gajos, from Castle Oak in Bandon, Co Cork, died last July after swallowing the screw, which became wedged at the entrance to his lungs. It was positioned so deep medics did not know it was there.
Doctors and paramedics fought desperately to save the child’s life but the screw only became apparent after an X-ray was carried out.
“It was too far down to see it,” said Dr Jason van der Velde of West Cork Rapid Response.
The child was at home with his mother and older brother when he wandered into the garden shed on Jul 17. He then walked into the kitchen before he fell and started to cry.
“I thought maybe his older brother pushed him,” said his mother Kamila Krupa.
“I picked him up but something was wrong, his breathing was very difficult. Straight away I went to my neighbour, I said something is wrong, he’s not breathing, I don’t know what happened.”
An ambulance call was logged at the control centre in Dublin at 9.32am. An ambulance was dispatched from Clonakilty at 9.42am and arrived at the scene at 9.59am. Paramedic Barry Hayes said he could not explain the 10-minute dispatch gap but said the family were waiting a total of 27 minutes for an ambulance.
Paramedic Andrew Ryan said on arrival the child was lying on the floor, his breathing was laboured. He said he “had a good look” down the child’s airway and used his torch for the inspection.
“I did everything I could do,” he said.
Dr Margaret Bolster, the assistant state pathologist, confirmed the screw was lodged out of sight in the lining of the windpipe.
“You couldn’t see it just by looking into the mouth,” said Dr Bolster.
The metal screw caused micro-tears in the lining of the windpipe that allowed air to escape.
“Heroic” medical efforts were made to save the child, including airway obstruction clearance manoeuvres and an emergency tracheotomy.
Dr van der Velde, who assisted the ambulance crew at Halfway en route to Cork University Hospital, said medics battled to save the child but said the depth of the screw lodged in the child’s windpipe was “very rare”. He said he had thought about Mikolaj every day since the child’s death.
“I honestly believe if we got there right away we still could not have solved the problem,” said Dr van der Velde.
Both of the child’s lungs collapsed, he went into cardiac arrest and was later pronounced dead at Cork University Hospital.
Ingestion of foreign objects is one of the leading causes of death among children under three years old, said Dr Bolster.
Returning a verdict of accidental death, Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said the loss of the little boy was “a tragic story”.
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