Toddler brain-damaged after choking on apple at daycare

Neihana Renata was 22-months-old when he choked on a piece of apple at Little Lights Kindy in Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island in May 2016, Stuff.co.nz reports. 

According to a report written by Dr Sarah Alexander of ChildForum Early Childhood Education National Network, the little boy had no health conditions or disabilities and his development was “normal for his age”.

Neihana Renata was 22-months-old when he choked on a piece of apple at a daycare centre in 2016. Source: ChildForum Early Childhood Education National Network

“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),” Dr Alexander wrote.  

“Children’s second molars do not normally come through completely until they are over 2.6 years old. His mum described him as being very smiley and loving.  

“He was also an active little boy – he loved to run and play outside, and he was a great dancer.”

Moment toddler chokes on apple

Neihana was fed raw, peeled and sliced apple which had been prepared in the daycare’s kitchen, the report said.

All children were seated and one teacher, who is named as Teacher A, noticed Neihana beginning to choke.

Neihana now has a hypoxic brain injury and severe cerebral palsy. Source: ChildForum Early Childhood Education National Network

She picked him up and performed several chest thrusts or the Heimlich Manoeuvre on him.

Teacher B placed her finger in his mouth but couldn’t find anything. 

Teacher E, who was passing by, recommended slapping him on the back and Teacher A did so. 

Teacher B noticed the boy’s colour changing and an ambulance was called while Teacher E tried more chest thrusts and A did another mouth sweep with her finger like B had done earlier.

The toddler was fed sliced pieces of apple prepared in the daycare’s kitchen. Source: Getty Images/file

Neihana fell unconscious and was laid on a table while compressions were done on his chest. 

Teacher E gave two breaths and he vomited blood and mucus into her mouth. He was turned on his side and more came out.

Emergency services recommended to continue compressions before an ambulance arrived.

He went into cardiac arrest for about 30 minutes before being resuscitated.

Dr Alexander wrote Neihana spent two months in hospital with two weeks in intensive care.

The aftermath 

He now has a hypoxic brain injury and severe cerebral palsy. His mother, who was once a fully qualified GP, had to give up work as a doctor to care for him. 

He regularly visits hospital as he’s now more prone to chest infections.

“He is unable to talk, swallow normally, or move his body,” Dr Alexander wrote.

“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 five he will not be able to attend school with her.” 

Dr Alexander released the report to recommend a review of first aid requirements and an overhaul of the Ministry of Education’s licensing criteria to ensure children aren’t served high-risk food.

She added among these foods are raw carrot, celery, nuts, apple and corn chips. Apple “should be either cooked until soft or finely grated”, Dr Alexander wrote.

In a statement, Evolve Education Group, which owns the daycare, said safety, happiness and personal development of children is “at the forefront of everything we do”.

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