Spine-chilling cases that warn of pandemic's impact on kids

Business | Amy Nip 22 Apr 2021

A 12-year-old boy inserted a 20-centimeter electrical wire into his urethra in an example public doctors cited to warn of the pandemic's impact on the mental well-being of children.

The Prince of Wales Hospital's department of surgery noticed an increase in insertion of objects into the body amid the pandemic, "with unusual foreign bodies found at unusual sites."

The team wrote in the Hong Kong Medical Journal that in June 2020, the boy went to the emergency department a day after he inserted the wire into his urinary tract to "relieve itchiness."

This resulted in pain and blood in his urine, after which the family sought medical help and the boy was hospitalized.

Doctors failed to pull the wire out and had to perform emergency surgery.

Surgeons widened his urethra, fragmented the wires and retrieved them. His spongy urethra was subsequently reconstructed.

The mother said the child had difficulty settling in school and adapting to everyday life following the family's recent immigration from Taiwan.

"With school suspended during the pandemic, the patient was often left alone at home, worsening his emotional health," the team wrote.

The child had no prior history of inserting foreign bodies. But a clinical psychologist diagnosed the boy as having limited problem-solving skills and autistic features, with a strong interest in using electrical wire.

He was discharged two days after his operation and had to use a urinary bag for two weeks.

Another case involved a 15-year-old boy who was admitted to hospital in May last year after pushing a plastic bottle into his rectum.

The boy had constipation and inserted a plastic shampoo container into his rectum in the hopes that this would help him defecate.

The teenager claimed he got the idea from an online search of constipation remedies during a school suspension.

Radiographs showed the outline of the bottle in his colon. After observation overnight, an examination the next morning found the bottle to be reachable by hand.

The patient subsequently defecated and the bottle came out. He was advised about the correct use of laxatives for constipation.

The team said both patients were emotionally and socially affected by the pandemic.

The mental well-being of children and adolescents have been affected by strict public health measures, the team said.

In the mainland, more than 20 percent of college students reported mild to severe anxiety as a result of isolation measures and school suspensions in the midst of the pandemic.

"Lack of contact with peers, reduced opportunities for stress modulation, increased domestic violence and child maltreatment have been reported as additional threats to the mental health of children and adolescents," the doctors wrote.


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