Paul Baxter, from Croston, Lancashire, was suspected to have cancer after doctors found a mass in the ex-smoker’s lungs
A postman who inhaled a Playmobil cone that was lodged in his lung for 40 years has revealed how it came out in ‘perfect working order’.
Paul Baxter, from Croston, Lancashire, was suspected to have cancer after doctors found a mass in the ex-smoker’s lungs.
Tests at first appeared to confirm their fears – until they inserted a tiny camera to look at the suspected tumour. They burst into laughter when they saw.
What they believed was a malignant growth turned out to be a toy plastic traffic cone from a Playmobil set he received as a seventh birthday present.
Mr Baxter, 50, has since kept it as a souvenir of his ordeal. He also revealed doctors could have found it 20 years ago – but missed it.
The father-of-two said: ‘The operation was under local anaesthetic and when they removed the cone in the theatre it was hilarious, everyone in the room just laughed.
‘It has come out in perfect working order, you can even still see the markings.’
Mr Baxter, whose story intrigued doctors and was revealed in BMJ Case Reports, can’t remember inhaling the cone.
He added: ‘Kids eat things and I obviously chewed on my toys. But I can’t even remember swallowing it to be honest.
‘I have been told that I must have inhaled it for it to go into my windpipe. If I had swallowed it, it would have gone into my stomach and out the other end.’
Mr Baxter, 50, has since kept the toy cone as a souvenir of his ordeal. He also revealed doctors could have found it 20 years ago – but missed it
The postman was suspected to have cancer after doctors found a mass in his lungs – only for them to discover it was a toy cone (pictured next to a syringe for size comparison) he inhaled around 40 years ago
Dr Mohammed Munavvar, who treated Mr Baxter at Royal Preston Hospital, was the one who discovered the tiny toy.
He said: ‘I have never come across something quite this extraordinary before. There have been one or two other things but nothing quite like this.
The operation was under local anesthetic and when they removed the cone in the theatre it was hilarious, everyone in the room just laughed
‘There was concern about something more serious underlying the problem Paul was experiencing.
‘It was honestly a full on surprise when I saw what the blockage actually was.’
Doctors missed the chance to find the toy two decades ago when Mr Baxter was admitted to hospital with a bout of pneumonia.
They also failed to spot it in 2004 when Mr Baxter had a full body MRI scan when he had a brain abscess.
Mr Baxter initially went to the Chorley and South Ribble Hospital but was referred to Royal Preston Hospital after having a cough for little over a year.
There he had a bronchoscopy – where doctors sent a camera into his lungs – to see if they could find what was responsible for his niggling cough.
The 50-year-old complained of coughing up yellow mucus and feeling unwell for little over a year. He sought help from doctors. Scans showed a mass in his lungs, which consultants assumed was cancer due to him having smoked for three decades
Doctors revealed that they could see something ‘orange’ down his throat, but they didn’t know what it was.
A foreign body was identified and removed with forceps. Doctors later revealed this was a traffic cone from a Playmobil set.
WHO SWALLOWS FOREIGN OBJECTS
A paper published in the journal BMJ Case reports said swallowing foreign objects is mostly reported in children younger than three years of age.
Coins and bones are the objects most commonly ingested.
Normally, the objects are passed naturally, but there is a high risk thin, sharp objects can perforate parts of the body such as the bowel.
If the object is too big to be removed in an endoscopy, doctors may have to operate.
Surgery such as a laparotomy – where medics make an incision into the abdomen to remove the object from the bowel – is required in less than 1 per cent of cases where people ingest foreign bodies.
Soon after having the procedure, he revealed he regularly played with and even swallowed pieces of Playmobil growing up.
Mr Baxter remembered being given this specific Playmobil set as a present on his seventh birthday, doctors reported.
Writing in the journal, medics said they believe it was the first case of a foreign body being lodged undetected in the airways for so long.
They wrote: ‘To our knowledge this is the first reported case of a tracheobronchial foreign body that was overlooked for 40 years.’
Four months after removal of the tiny traffic cone, Mr Baxter’s symptoms had lessened, the doctors revealed.
The researchers said it was likely he went symptomless for so long because of the age at which he inhaled the cone.
As he grew older, his airways would have moulded round the foreign body.
It is common for young children to aspirate a toy, say experts, but the problem is usually spotted very quickly as it causes breathing problems. It most often happens in toddlers under three.
Usually children swallow items instead of inhaling them. These pass through the body naturally, although thin, sharp objects can cause internal injury.