HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Mya Whittington has been a real angel during her stay this week at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, said her mother, Emma.
Still, her young parents and doctors were quite surprised when the underlying cause of the nearly 7-month-old's distress was plucked from her neck on Monday.
Aaron and Emma Whittington first took their daughter to the hospital Saturday after an area below her jaw swelled up.
"They thought it was a swollen gland," Aaron Whittington said.
The hospital administered an antibiotic and sent the family home.
'Pimple' grows larger than a golf ball
Mya's grandmother took her back to the hospital after a "pimple" appeared on the swollen area, which had now grown to the size of about 1 1/2 golf balls, Aaron Whittington said.
"She looked like Quasimodo," her father said.
The physician suspected a staph infection on her lymph nodes.
A doctor broke the pimple to try to drain it and drew marks on her face to measure whether the swelling increased. The intravenous antibiotics were continued.
On Monday, the doctor on rounds scraped off a scab that formed. After the doctor left, the Whittingtons noted what appeared to be a string or stick emerging from the spot. They left it alone, since the doctor hadn't done anything to it, Aaron said.
When Mya's pediatrician visited later that evening, however, she asked what it was. She then put on a pair of gloves and plucked a 2-inch-long black feather from the swollen area of the child's neck.
They suspect, Whittington said, that the baby swallowed or inhaled the feather, which apparently pierced the inside of her cheek or throat and then, over time, her body forced it out the other way.
The Whittingtons had a down pillow on their bed, but Mya wasn't normally on it, and it's been in the couple's laundry room for months, Emma Whittington said.
It's headed for the trash.
"She's been pulling on the left side of her face for a couple of months," Emma said, but she suspected it was teething or an ear infection.
In her 20 years on the pediatric floor at the hospital, RN Sandra Mathis has never seen the like, though she recalls a child coming in once with hairbrush bristles stuck in its tonsils that had to be removed, from chewing on a brush.
The Whittingtons' doctor indicated the swelling had to be causing an immense amount of pain, Emma said, but Mya cried mostly only when nurses have poked her.
Her ordeal isn't over yet, however. The swollen area has a hard knot in it about 4 centimeters in size. If the knot doesn't break up on its own, Mya is headed for surgery in Wichita to remove it.