Man died after eating fishcake so hot it left him unable to breathe

Case raises questions about care from hospital that sent him home with paracetamol

Jane Dalton
Thursday 10 October 2019 14:00
Comments
Darren Hickey died choking less than 12 hours after a fishcake burnt his airways
Darren Hickey died choking less than 12 hours after a fishcake burnt his airways

A man died after sampling a fishcake so hot it burnt his throat and caused him to stop breathing, an inquest has heard.

Darren Hickey’s voice box swelled up over the following 12 hours, eventually causing him to choke.

A coroner said the case raised questions about the care from the hospital that had sent Mr Hickey home with paracetamol.

The 51-year-old wedding planner was given the small fishcake to try by a chef at a wedding venue on 4 April.

It burnt the back of his throat and as the pain grew worse during the afternoon, Mr Hickey visited the urgent care ward at Chorley Hospital, Lancashire.

The inquest into his death heard how he would have had difficulty breathing and swallowing because of the pain and swelling.

Patrick Waugh, a pathologist who performed a post-mortem examination, said the case was very rare, only seen normally in people who have breathed in smoke in house fires, which burns the airways.

“The patient can appear well, they will be talking to you, but then the swelling starts,” he said.

Alan Walsh, the acting senior coroner, heard how Mr Hickey was sent home with painkillers and told to return if the pain got worse.

The damage to his throat was so far down it could not be seen without a specialist procedure, Bolton coroners’ court heard.

Mr Hickey, from Bolton, went to his room to rest after going to hospital. But the swelling worsened and later Neil Parkinson, his partner, found him choking.

“I banged his back but then he slid forward onto the floor,” Mr Parkinson said.

Paramedics treated Mr Hickey and rushed him to the Royal Bolton Hospital but he was pronounced dead just after midnight, less than 12 hours after sampling the fishcake.

The coroner said the case raised questions about the care at the hospital’s urgent care ward, which is run by GTD Healthcare to take pressure away from accident and emergency.

A practitioner had contacted a specialist from the ear, nose and throat unit at Preston Hospital. But because of a lack of burns to Mr Hickey’s mouth and tongue, they were unable to find the damage.

The inquest heard a full review of the incident would be carried out.

Mr Hickey’s cause of death was given as asphyxiation.

Seven years earlier, he had suffered a “catastrophic” stroke that left him with some difficulty walking and speaking.

He channelled much of his energy into charity work and was given a courage award by the Stroke Association.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Walsh said: “I believe there are enormous lessons to be learned.

“This was caused by eating a fishcake, very small and very hot but with catastrophic consequences. I find this an immense tragedy.”

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in