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Settlement for boy who had battery in throat for 9 days

The HSE and a GP have apologised to the mother of a boy over injuries he suffered after a battery was stuck in his throat for nine days before an X-ray was carried out.

Aaron Sikorski from Tuam in Co Galway was 14 months old when his mother sought medical attention after suspecting her son had swallowed a battery while playing on the floor. The button type battery is usually used for watches and other small devices.

However, it took nine days and numerous visits to a GP and a hospital before an X-ray was carried out. But by then, he had suffered a serious injury as the battery had burned through his oesophagus into his trachea.

The court heard such batteries can react to saliva and cause a reaction which can be fatal if not removed within 48 hours.

Today the High Court approved a settlement of €220,000 for the now six-year-old boy in a case taken against the HSE and a GP for negligence and breach of duty. The HSE admitted a breach of duty, but the settlement was reached without admission of liability by the GP who denied the claims.

Both defendants apologised for the treatment the boy received.

It took nine days and numerous visits to a GP and a hospital before an X-ray was carried out

On 25 July 2018 Marlena Sikorski heard her 14 month old son coughing and spluttering and noticed he was beside a drawer where batteries were normally kept. She tried to clear the obstruction and he vomited after which she took him to the GP.

In her high court action, it was claimed she reported her suspicion that her son had swallowed a battery but was sent home with advice to take fluids and paracetamol as Aaron had a high temperature and another family member had been ill the previous weekend.

The toddler was taken to the GP again the next day as his mother noticed he had difficulty breathing overnight, and had made an audio recording of it. He had a high temperature and vomited again.

The GP advised it could be croup and no further investigation was recommended.

A day later, the boy’s mother took him to A&E in Galway University Hospital. He had difficulty breathing and was not eating. The nursing notes show it was recorded there was a possibility he had swallowed a battery but no chest X-ray was carried out.

Six days later, Aaron’s mother brought him back to their GP and again he was diagnosed as having croup and prescribed a steroid and inhaler. But the following day after another visit to the GP he was referred to hospital where an X-ray was carried out and a foreign body identified.

The boy was taken for an emergency procedure where the battery was removed.

However by then the battery had burned through his oesophagus into the trachea causing serious complications, and required a transfer for specialist follow-up complex surgery in Crumlin, where doctors at one point told his mother they needed to seek guidance from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

He remained in hospital for three weeks having spent time in intensive care.

Aaron required additional surgeries and treatment and was left with extensive permanent surgical scarring and psychological trauma.

For a time, he suffered eating difficulties and language development issues, some of which have been resolved.

However, the court heard he continues to suffer from some eating and language difficulties and has a fear of medical appointments. He also has a 14cm scar which may need to be treated with plastic surgery when he is older.

The boy has sued for negligence and breach of duty the HSE and GP Maire McGarry with a practice at Sean Purcell Road Tuam, Co Galway.

Liability was admitted by the HSE but denied by the GP who disputed the claims.

An apology to Marlena Sikorski read to the court said the defendants offered “sincere apologies for the treatment Aaron received from us in 2018. We regret the distress and anxiety which you and your family have experienced. We sincerely wish you and your family all the best for the future.”

The family’s solicitor Johan Verbruggen said the case was “every parent’s worst nightmare. Marlena told multiple doctors over three days, that she feared her one-year-old boy had swallowed a battery. A simple X-ray would have confirmed that but the opportunities to arrange one were missed. All the while, the battery was leaking and corroding Aaron’s throat. Simply put, had Marlena been listened to, Aaron would not have suffered these horrific injuries.”

Mr Justice Coffey approved the settlement and wished Aaron and his mother the best for the future.

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