Doctors at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem recently admitted a 14-year-old boy, from Shilo in the Binyamin region, who accidentally gulped down a small orange, rubber object attached to the end of a pencil. About a month ago, while playing with his friend at school, he grabbed a pencil with the ball and put it in his mouth. It swelled in his stomach into the size of a ping-pong ball, moved to his intestines, and clogged them, endangering his life.
Because no inconvenience was caused, the boy did not attach much importance to the event. But several days after he swallowed the foreign object, he complained of severe abdominal pain and nonstop vomiting. The boy’s parents contacted their family physician, who referred them to Shaare Zedek’s Emergency Medicine Department, under the direction of Dr. Giora Weiser, Head of the Glaubach Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. They took him to the hospital, where surgeons suspected a dangerous intestinal obstruction. He was admitted for urgent surgery, at the end of which the surgeons pulled out the bouncing ball.
“One must be aware of the dangers involved in swallowing a foreign body, especially since it is made of such a flexible material that may disrupt the function of the convoluted abdominal organs,” Weiser said. Dr. Aner Keinan, a Senior Pediatric Surgeon at Shaare Zedek, treated the boy. Dr. Ofra Carmel of the Pediatric Surgery Department at the hospital stated this was a very rare event of such a significant blockage caused by a foreign object in a teenager. The imaging tests did not clearly show what the foreign object was, as it had turned inside out. “We did not think it was a tumour, but there was certainly a reasonable suspicion of a secondary obstruction caused by inflammation or a foreign object,” she said.
Within an hour of diagnosis, the boy was admitted for urgent surgery, during which a tiny incision two or three centimeters long was made for a laparoscopic (keyhole) approach. Through the small incision in the intestine, they removed a lump of rubber that had absorbed fluids and swelled. They closed the gut and informed the parents, who were happy to find out that the cause of the blockage was just a ball of rubber.
The boy was hospitalized for further supervision in Shaare Zedek’s Pediatric Surgery Department, headed by Dr. Yaron Armon, for recovery. After a few days, he was able to eat without difficulty. The child is now at home and is expected to recover fully. Weiser said it was a rare case because time had passed between the swallowing incident and the symptoms. He urged children of all ages not to put foreign objects in their mouth because of the danger of swallowing them, especially those made of flexible materials that cam disrupt the function of the twisted abdominal organs.
Kol Hakavod, amazing work by all of the Shaare Zedek medical staff who saved this little boy with quick detection, and innovative thinking!