1 Twin Toddler Suffers Permanent Brain Damage from Choking on an Apple at Daycare

Neihana Renata
TVNZ

Two parents are heartbroken after their toddler's tragic accident, which they believe was preventable, has changed his life forever. According to his parents, the New Zealand boy was only 22 months old when he choked on an apple at daycare. The caught fruit caused him to fall unconscious and resulted in a hypoxic brain injury as well as severe cerebral palsy. Now, a watchdog group is sharing his story as it pushes for stricter guidelines on what children can be served in early childhood centers and works to raise awareness about the dangers of serving kids certain food that can be too big for them to eat.

  • The unthinkable incident happen in May 2016, when Neihana Renata was served an apple to snack on at daycare.

    As a report published by the parenting watchdog group Child Forum noted, the boy was attending the Little Lights Kindy daycare center with his twin sister for about "2.6 months for between 1½ to 2 full days a week." But on May 31, 2016, an afternoon snack served to the kids changed his life forever. 

    Reportedly around 2:15 p.m., daycare workers gave the children raw and peeled apple slices. But as the other kids munched away on their treat, Renata began to choke. The center manager, who was filling in for another teacher who had called in sick, was sitting at the same table as the boy when she noticed him struggling. Then "she picked him up and either did several chest thrusts or Heimlich." 

    Another teacher who was interviewed said she also tried to save Renata's life. She put her finger into the boy's mouth to try and "hook anything that was in there out but there was nothing.” And a third teacher who happened to be passing by the classroom shared that she had heard someone say, "He’s choking.” That promoted her to also try to help and advise another teacher to slap Renata on the back. But unfortunately, it seemed as if nothing was working.

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  • Worried, the teachers eventually called an ambulance as the toddler's color began to change and they were unable to clear his airway.

    As one of the teachers went to call emergency services, the others continued to try to dislodge the apple from Renata's throat. One teacher tried to perform either chest thrusts or the Heimlich (the report is unclear), she then flipped him over her knee and slapped his back. And another teacher again performed a blind mouth sweep of the toddler -- though the report noted that this is not recommended as it often can push the object lodged in a child's throat even farther back.

    The teachers then laid the boy on the table and began giving him chest compressions, but at this point he was unconscious. One of the teachers gave him two breaths of mouth-to-mouth, but "he vomited blood and mucus into her mouth." The staff then turned the boy onto his side hoping that more liquid would come out, but nothing did.

    As the teachers reportedly continued to perform CPR on Renata, they waited for the ambulance to come. Unfortunately, by the time medical personal arrived, he had been in cardiac arrest for 30 minutes -- an amount of time that usually indicates a low chance of survival.

  • Luckily for Renata, EMTs at the scene were able to revive him and he was rushed to the hospital.

    As Yahoo News reported, the boy spent two months at the hospital in intensive care recovering. But sadly, the damage had been done. Doctors diagnosed Renata with a "hypoxic brain injury and severe cerebral palsy," a condition he showed no signs of before he choked at daycare.

    "The toddler’s development was normal for his age and he had no health conditions or disabilities," the report by Child Forum noted. "As typical of children his age, he did not have a full set of teeth having neither first nor second molars (essential for grinding food)."

  • Now, it's believed that Renata will never be able to move his body or speak. 

    "He is unable to talk, swallow normally, or move his body," the report continued. "This means he cannot do things that are typical of children his age like sing songs, paint pictures, climb trees, or even drink from a cup -- and he never will be able to. His twin sister no longer has a playmate and when they are 5, he will not be able to attend school with her."

    Since his accident, Renata has been back to the hospital many times for chest infections and physical therapy. His mother has even given up her profession as a general practitioner to take care of her son. There's a marked difference in their lives since Renata's incident, and Child Forum is using this case as an example as to why lawmakers need to strictly enforce rules on what food can be served to children when they are in early childhood centers. 

    "People at any age are susceptible to choking but children less than 5 years are particularly susceptible and especially children under 3," the report continued. For children younger than 3, small, hard foods are too difficult for them to eat, as they don't have all of their teeth yet and because their air and food passages are too small.

    "Giving food, such as popcorn, nuts, and raw apples, that young children can easily choke on is against health advice in New Zealand and internationally." That is why the report was filed to put pressure on the New Zealand government to firm up what is allowed to be served in daycare centers and to question if Renata's case was handled with proper attention. 

    "There is no legal requirement that the texture of the food must be altered through cooking, grating or mashing to reduce risk," the report continued. "Parents appear to be warned insufficiently of this hazard in early childhood education."

    "The Ministry of Education is responsible for licensing and ensuring all services meet regulations that include taking all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents and promoting the good health and safety of children," the report added.