Health

'It Was A Miracle He Survived': Family Sues Hospitals After Boy Swallows Lithium Battery

| by Jared Keever

An Australian family, whose son was badly injured after swallowing a small lithium battery, is suing two hospitals claiming the boy’s injuries were the result of a lack of urgency among medical professionals. 

Oscar is the son of a Queensland family whose surname has not been provided in news stories. He is said to have swallowed the small, button-style battery in 2010 when he was only 4 months old and developed severe symptoms soon after, according to the Daily Mail. 

Oscar’s parents reportedly first took him to a general practitioner in April 2010, when the boy developed a cough and breathing problems. The doctor reportedly referred the family to nearby Mossman Hospital for X-rays to determine the cause of the breathing difficulties. 

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He was then rushed by ambulance from Mossman to Cairns Base Hospital after his condition worsened. The battery was finally removed about 15 hours after the family first sought medical help, the Daily Mail reported.

Four weeks later, the family was reportedly back at the hospital with Oscar. His father, Colin, said the boy was “near death” and that Oscar’s post-operative care failed to detect that the battery had corroded part of his son’s spine.

“His head almost fell off,” Colin is quoted as saying in The Courier-Mail. “It was a miracle he survived.” 

After being airlifted to Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital and spending eight months in a body cast, Oscar has recovered and can walk, but will reportedly have limited movement for the rest of his life. 

The family, in their lawsuit filed recently by Brisbane-based firm Shine Lawyers, alleges that doctors not only failed to properly care for Oscar after surgery, but were also slow to recognize that the boy had swallowed a battery, mistaking it in X-rays for a shirt button. 

“[The doctors] looked at the X-ray and asked me if he had a buttoned shirt,’’ Colin said. 

“They ummed and ahhed and didn’t remove it until many hours later,” he added.

Bill King, head of the Medical Negligence department at Shine Lawyers, told The Courier-Mail that Oscar’s permanent injuries are the result of the hospitals’ failures.

“Medical [professionals] need to be aware of the serious legal repercussions that can result should they fail to detect and respond to the ingestion of such dangerous foreign materials,’’ he said. 

The case is said to underscore a growing concern over small lithium batteries. Such concern has reportedly increased since a 4-year-old girl died after swallowing a battery in 2013. Area coroner, John Hutton, now believes that as many as four Queensland children a week are showing up at healthcare facilities with so-called battery exposure. 

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service acting chief executive, Caroline Wagner, declined to comment on the recently filed suit, citing the pending litigation. 

“Cairns Hospital regularly reviews the way we operate to ensure we are providing the most appropriate care to our community,” she said, according to the Daily Mail. 

Sources: Daily Mail, The Courier-Mail

Photo Credit: Daily Mail, lithiumbatter.com