Published on February 27, 2015
Janeway Children’s Hospital patient care co-ordinator Veanus Buckingham and Dr. John Cavanagh, a pediatric head and neck surgeon, stand next to the showcase of “foreign objects” removed from children’s bodies over the years at the hospital. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Coins, Lego blocks, earrings, screws, fishhooks, a piece of wood.
Those are just some of the things Veanus Buckingham has had to remove from kids as a patient care co-ordinator at the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's.
"Anything really petite and small," Buckingham said. "Coins are very common."
The items can end up anywhere a small child can put them, too.
Up the nose, in the ear, stuck in the eye, and swallowed, Buckingham said.
There's a steady stream of children coming to the hospital with items where they shouldn't be. A child in this predicament is treated about once a week, she said.
"Then you can go through a stint where you get three in a week."
The cases Buckingham sees run the gamut from routine to serious.
A Lego block up the nose could be just a funny story for the future. But a coin lodged in a child's windpipe can quickly turn tragic.
In her 18-year career, Buckingham has seen a child die from choking.
Dr. John Cavanagh is the pediatric head and neck surgeon at Janeway hospital, and he knows some young kids don't know any better.
"Kids will be kids, they put things in their mouth."
But if a child accidentally swallows an object, it can end up in their windpipe, which becomes an emergency situation.
"If it ends up in your windpipe, it's life or death," he said.
In some cases, a smack on the child's back could clear the airway.
But it can take more than that, Cavanagh said.
"If you're not able to open the airway, you bring the child into the emergency room immediately."
Parents should keep an eye on their kids as much as possible, but they can't watch them all the time. There are some precautions a parent can take to avoid a choking situation, Cavanagh said.
"Under the age of three, you shouldn't let kids play with anything that can fit through a toilet paper roll."
A young child might not be able to tell their parents they're choking, either, but there are signs parents can look out for, he said.
"It's up to the parents to recognize their child's noisy when they're breathing or they have this persistent cough but they don't have a cold or a flu," Cavanagh said.
But it's not only young children waiting in the emergency room, he added.
Sometimes a child old enough to know better could have something in their mouth and they suddenly trip. All of a sudden that lollipop is down near their lungs.
"It's one of the most stressful situations a parent will ever encounter," Cavanagh said.