A mother who called an ambulance when her baby suddenly started struggling to breathe tells BBC News how hospital X-rays came back clear and doctors diagnosed tonsillitis – but then, after two weeks, an operation uncovered a tiny plastic angel trapped in his oesophagus.
Ten-month-old Laith Atiga was crawling at his grandmother’s home, in Berkshire, when he suddenly started coughing.
“I turned to check on him and found that he was struggling to breathe,” his mother, Jude, said.
“He turned blue and started to froth.
“His eyes started to roll.”
Emergency staff responded to Jude’s 999 call, and gave Laith oxygen.
“Laith was doing well and even playing and laughing,” his mother said.
“Ambulance staff asked me to give him a drink and he seemed to struggle with it, so they decided to take us to hospital because they suspected something was stuck.”
The family was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, but an X-ray came back clear.
The following day, 1 August, Laith became unwell with a fever and no appetite, but by 3 August he had recovered.
Then, he took a turn for the worse.
“I tried to feed him, and that’s when I realised something was still seriously wrong,” Jude said.
“He chewed his food as usual but very quickly regurgitated it in chewed form.”
Jude took Laith back to hospital, where he was diagnosed with tonsillitis.
“I was given a local anaesthetic to spray at the back of Laith’s throat 20 minutes before meals, to help him swallow,” she said.
“Although I wasn’t convinced, I tried the spray and Laith still struggled to swallow.
“I thought it best to give him a break from solids and started only giving him pureed soups and milkshakes.
“I continued to do this for two more days.”
But a few days later, after Laith regurgitated more food, Jude, who lives in New York, panicked.
“It happened shortly before bedtime,” she said.
“And had he not regurgitated it then, it could have caused him to choke in his sleep.
“I decided to call his doctors in New York, as I had completely lost faith in the NHS.
“They told me to stop giving him solids completely as they are a serious choking hazard and only to give him liquids or stage-one pureed foods.”
The family travelled back to the US and went to a hospital in New York, where Laith was again X-rayed and seen by an ear, nose and throat specialist.
But, once again, everything came back clear.
“They concluded that if there was something, it must be in the oesophagus,” Jude said.
“We were admitted, and at 08:00 on Saturday, 13 August, Laith was operated on, and a plastic angel, measuring almost 2cm [0.7in], was found in his oesophagus.”
Jude said: “I am still so traumatised by the whole experience.
“Ultimately, I shouldn’t have had to chase after medical providers for answers.
“The duty of care given to children and babies should never be compromised.
“My child should not have had to suffer in such discomfort for as long as he did.”
A Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust representative said: “We were sorry to hear, through the BBC, of the young patient’s experience – but the family has not been in touch with the trust about this issue since their return to America.
“We have raised this issue and are investigating it – but, to progress it further, it would be helpful if the family made formal contact with our patient liaison team directly.
“This would help us to review the care given and let the family know of any outcomes.”