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May 8, 2003

Delicate operation removes pin from boy’s throat

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It was the kind of a bizarre medical emergency that is every mother’s worst nightmare. And in the case of Sandra Lewis, not only did she have to cope with the grim reality of a pin stuck in her son’s throat, but the added burden of not having the money to have it removed. Over the last several days I followed the family’s ordeal, which had at least as much drama as any episode of E.R.

Sandra Lewis, Mother

“I hope he noh do it again cause dah noh only he one de inna pain right now, me to.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

For three days, Sandra Lewis watched her twelve-year-old son, Kenroy Smith, live in pain, after an inch long metal pin lodged itself his air pipe, or trachea. Smith, a student at Salvation Army Primary, says he was at school on Monday morning and, balancing a plate of food in one hand, he was using the other to pick up several common pins that had fallen to the floor.

Kenroy Smith

“One of them mi di drop and then I do so (put it between his lips) fu mek it nevah drop and then I mi gwine goh put it back inna my hand and wah lee bwai come in and frighten me and I tek wah deep breath and then I swallow it.”

“When it mi go down it just scratch and then afta that, because ah that it just start to mek I cough.”

Janelle Chanona

“And you’ve been coughing ever since?”

(Shakes head yes)

Janelle Chanona

“Does it hurt when you cough or it just feel bad?”

Kenroy Smith

“It hurts.”

Janelle Chanona

“Where it hurts, in your throat or in your chest?”

Kenroy Smith

“Inna my throat.”

Kenroy was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, but later, doctors referred the family to Universal Health Services. The cost of the operation was an issue, but U.H.S., the Belize Social Security Board and concerned members of the community, quickly came to the boy’s aid.

Sandra Lewis

“The money weh they talk bout, I worsa feel bad because I noh have the kind of money. But thank God they have people out there weh help me through it and I hope this dah it. Cause the doctor this afternoon, he frighten me again to because the way how he seh he nevah do it yet and this dah wah touch and go thing, so right now I the pray.”

And it would take the God given talent of endoscopist Irvin Gabourel to extract the pin.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel, Endoscopist

“Fortunately, the foreign object, which is the common pin, is not obstructing any of the airways, because that would put his life in immediate danger. If you had a round object like a coin or a seed that would obstruct the airway then his life would be in immediate danger. But basically what he is having right now is a lot of coughing, because the body detects that there is something there that doesn’t belong to it, it will try to instinctively take it out and you do that by coughing.”

Janelle Chanona

“Not so long ago, Kenroy’s condition would have forced doctors would have been forced to crack open his chest cavity and slice through the lung to get to the common pin to remove it. Thankfully, today, modern technology has made the procedure far less painful and invasive.”

Usually, when someone swallows something they shouldn’t have, it goes into the stomach and passes out in a few days time…but sometimes the object gets into the lungs. And that’s why this operation would be tricky.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel

“We are going into the oral cavity, the white stuff back there that’s the vocal cords okay. As you can see in the background, that’s the pinhead. That’s the pin head right there. Oh, oh, the pin is actually stuck to the wall of the…you see that right. So it’s actually stuck on the wall.”

An hour and fifteen minutes later…success.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel

“We have a metal pin with a yellow bead on the end, it looks like one of those pins that are used to hold paper on a clipboard.”

“This one was very difficult because of the angulations it had, and the fact that it was stuck on the wall. So we had to dislodge it without losing it, we had to turn it around so that the point would be facing the other way, and that is how we pulled it off.”

(Speaking to Kenroy’s Mom)

“I have a present for you…here are the picture to show you how the pin was lodged and this is the pin. The moral of that is don’t put pins in your mouth unless you’re going to swallow them.”

Tonight, twelve year old Kenroy Smith is at home, once again enjoying life with his family.



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