A patient in the Cayman Islands Hospital’s Critical Care Unit choked on a piece of wire from a metal pot scrubber that was in her lunch, she said from her hospital bed this week.
Clitey Christian, 53, who was being treated at the hospital for kidney failure arising from complications of heart surgery she had undergone in Jamaica, was admitted to the hospital in George Town on Friday night. On Sunday, as she ate a mouthful of fish, rice and vegetables delivered to her bedside from the hospital’s kitchen, the piece of metal got lodged in her throat, she said.
“I thought it was a fish bone that was stuck in my throat and I was trying to get it out. I know how dangerous it can be if it goes down … I was coughing and gagging and gasping for air and I couldn’t get it up. I felt like I was suffocating,” she said.
“My breathing was getting cut off. I was sitting on the edge of my bed, I was choking,” she added.
She said she eventually managed to spit up the food back onto her plate and she looked for the fish bone, but instead found “a piece of shiny, silver-looking wire”. “It looked like it was from a scrubber,” she said.
Mrs. Christian, a former nurse, said her throat felt raw and sore afterwards, but despite asking for something to soothe it, no doctor checked her throat or prescribed her any treatment until Tuesday morning after her son Mignon began alerting senior hospital staff and the media to what had happened.
“I had the chief medical officer and the CEO of the hospital at my bedside today,” she said Tuesday. “I was also sent to a throat specialist and they did an X-ray to see if there was anything left in there.”
She was given an antiseptic mouthwash to gargle with on Tuesday. Before that, she said, she had been sipping hot water from the tap in the bathroom to try to soothe her throat.
Since Sunday, she has been eating soft foods, mostly brought to the hospital by her daughter. She has also eaten some hospital food, which she admitted she now examines closely before putting it into her mouth.
Chief Medical Officer of the Health Services Authority Dr. Greg Hoeksema, in response to a query about the incident from the Compass, said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by a family member regarding an incident that occurred while his mother was an inpatient at the Cayman Islands Hospital. We have confidence in our process that allows us to understand these type of concerns and then review the care we deliver.
“In this case, our patient has enjoyed a long-term relationship with her physician who has treated her for many complex problems over the years. Nonetheless, we use every opportunity to improve our services, and it is through the eyes and voices of the patients and their families that we learn the most.”
He added: “The care team interacted with the patient immediately and her attending physician was at her bedside making rounds on Monday morning.”
Dr. Hoeksema confirmed the piece of metal was from a wire scrubber commonly used in kitchens to clean pots and pans and said staff had been informed to ensure that scrubbers be disposed of before they start to deteriorate.
“We’re not aware of any other patient finding a piece of the scrubber in their food,” he said, adding this was the first time anyone at the hospital could remember such a thing happening.
Despite choking on her metal-contaminated lunch, Mrs. Christian said she was otherwise happy with the care she had received at the hospital.
“I was dying when I came in here, I really was. My kidneys had shut down, but I got really good treatment and now I’m better and that’s thanks to the doctors and nurses here,” she said Wednesday morning after being released from the Medical Unit at the hospital where she had been taken after leaving the Critical Care Unit.