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Girl who choked on popcorn as toddler, suffering brain damage, settles case for €3.1m

By Ann O'Loughlin

A toddler who was rushed to hospital choking on a popcorn kernel later sustained brain damage after she was misdiagnosed with croup cough and the kernel was not removed for three days.

The HSE and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda today apologised to Jasveen Gill, now aged 11, for "the shortcomings in her care" as she settled her High Court action with an interim payout of €3.1m.

Jasveen's counsel Dr John O'Mahoney SC told the court it was a profoundly sad case and it has been a nightmare for Jasveen and her family.

Jasveen, he said, was a perfectly happy child for one year and 10 months and is now brain damaged, has difficulties with balance and has poor speech.

On the third day of her admission to the Drogheda hospital, the toddler had a choking and gasping fit and emergency resuscitation was commenced. She was transferred to the Children's Hospital, Crumlin where a bronchoscopy examination of the lungs was carried out and the popcorn kernel was found lodged in her right lung.

Unfortuantely, Counsel said it was too late for Jasveen who was in a very serious condition and remained unconscious for 30 days.

The child, Counsel said, suffered significant brain damage.

Ms Amandeep Kaur and Mr Tajinder Gill, Jasveen's parents. Pictures: Courtpix

In the High Court today, the HSE and the management and staff of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda apologised unreservedly to Jasveen and her family “for the shortcomings in care” which occurred at the time of Jasveen’s admission to the hospital in May 2008 and the “ distress and suffering” this has caused to Jasveen and extended family.

“As a result of the Critical Incident Review completed in 2008 in relation to Jasveen’s management, valuable lessons were learned and recommendations were implemented in the hospital in order to prevent a reoccurrence,” it said.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that liability was conceded in the case. The €3.1m is for the next seven years when Jasveen will come back to court for her future care needs to be assessed.

An action brought by her parents Ms Amandeep Kaur and Mr Tajinder Gill for nervous shock were also settled, the High Court heard.

Jasveen Gill, Seafield Court, Rush, Co Dublin had through her father Tajinder Gill sued the HSE over the circumstances of care provided to Jasveen at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda after she was brought there on May 10, 2008.

On that day, Jasveen was at home when she swallowed some popcorn. Counsel said the popcorn went into her airway and the child began coughing and was very quickly in a crisis situation. Her grandmother and a neighbour tried to resuscitate and she was was rushed to Our Lady Of Lourdes Hospital.

She was kept in for obervation and had a further episode of choking and ended up in the intensive care unit where she was re-examined.

On May 13, three days after she was admitted, Counsel said Jasveen had a very severe bout of coughing and went in to cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. Counsels said in the ambulance en route to the Childrens' Hospital, Crumlin, the child had two further severe seizures.

It was claimed at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Jasveen was incorrectly diagnosed with croup cough and started on medication. It was alleged no further investigative steps were taken in relation to the ingested popcorn.

The next day, it was claimed the child suffered another choking incident and went bluish around the lips and was transferred to the hospital intensive care. On May 12, 2008, it was claimed the little girl suffered further episodes of choking and on May 13 had another seizure and was transferred by ambulance to Dublin.

There was, it was claimed, an alleged failure to carry out appropriate investigations at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and an alleged failure to diagnose the existence of a foreign body in the little girl's respiratory tract or lung. It was further claimed the little girl's condition had been misdiagnosed.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the settlement will help get Jasveen professional help and he congratulated her parents on the way they have been looking after her up to now.