Boy's lung collapsed after he inhaled a popcorn kernel leading to a life-saving discovery

Marie Claire Dorking
·4 min read
Jordy Gordon's lung collapsed after he unknowingly inhaled a popcorn kernel. (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)
Jordy Gordon's lung collapsed after he unknowingly inhaled a popcorn kernel. (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)

A schoolboy suffered a collapsed lung after choking on a piece of popcorn, but the incident led doctors to discover he had a heart condition that required a life-saving operation to correct.

Jordy Gordon from Fort William, Scotland, was just two years old when he choked on the snack and unknowingly inhaled a kernel, which obstructed his airways.

His mum Shona Macgillivray, 35, took him to hospital because he couldn't stop coughing, mistakenly suspecting he had a chest infection.

But scans revealed the tiny piece of popcorn had caused one of Jordy’s lungs to completely collapse and he was kept in for treatment.

A follow-up scan to check his lung function revealed Jordy also had a potentially-fatal heart condition: his pulmonary veins were in the wrong place.

Doctors revealed Jordy wasn’t getting enough oxygen and would need open heart surgery.

After undergoing a 12-hour operation to reposition the veins Jordy, now seven, is completely healthy, but his mum believes the heart condition would never have been discovered if her son hadn't inhaled the popcorn kernel.

“I now think of that popcorn as both a blessing and a curse, as it showed us what was wrong,” the early years practitioner explains.

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Doctors also discovered Jordy had a potentially life-threatening heart condition, pictured in hospital.  (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)
Doctors discovered Jordy had a potentially life-threatening heart condition, pictured in hospital. (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)

The mum-of-two had left Jordy tucking into the popcorn when she went to work back in February 2015.

“I left him with my mum looking after him, who told me he was a bit chesty that day, but when I got home I didn’t think anything of it,” Macgillivray said.

The next day Jordy was still coughing, so Macgillivray took him to the doctors who assured her it was likely to be just a chest infection.

But at about 11pm that night Jordy’s coughing was getting worse so his mother took him to A&E at Belford Hospital in Fort William.

“They monitored his oxygen levels and saw it was very low, so they gave him a few puffs of the brown inhaler but that didn’t help, so they put him on a breathing machine,” she says.

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Having been transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, one of the doctors there asked if Jordy had eaten any popcorn, and his mum revealed he had the day before.

“He must have seen something like that before,” she explains. “I’m always getting tagged by my friends in stories about children choking on bits of popcorn.”

Jordy eventually coughed up the kernel, but a scan revealed one of his lungs had fully collapsed.

He was transferred again to Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow, where his lung re-inflated. His oxygen levels recovered and he was allowed home a few days later.

But six months later, a routine follow up X-ray revealed abnormalities, and Jordy was sent for an MRI, ECG and ultrasound.

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Jordy Gordon (Second left) with his family Michael Gordon, Rhys Gordon, and mum Shona Macgillivray. (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)
Jordy was left with scars following a 12-hour operation to correct his heart condition. (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)

In January 2016 he was diagnosed with scimitar syndrome, an underlying heart condition where the pulmonary veins are in the wrong place.

Doctors explained Jordy would need further surgery as there was a chance his condition would one day prove fatal.

“We spoke to the doctors who told us that loads of things can go wrong during surgery, but if he didn’t have it he could just drop dead at some point maybe in his late teens or early twenties,” says Macgillivray.

Despite fears Jordy might not survive the operation or could be left disabled, Macgillivray made the difficult decision for her son to have the surgery in July 2016.

The 12-hour surgery at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, saw doctors cut through Jordy’s chest to reposition his pulmonary veins.

“It was the worst day of my life,” Macgillivray recalls.

“I walked in, burst into tears, and then walked back out again.

“It was like he was comatose and wasn't really aware of what was going on.”

Jordy Gordon (Second left) with his family Michael Gordon, Rhys Gordon, and mum Shona Macgillivray. (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)
Jordy Gordon (Second left) with his family Michael Gordon, Rhys Gordon, and mum Shona Macgillivray. (Shona Macgillivray/SWNS)

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But six days after he was admitted for his surgery, Jordy came home to his mum, dad and older brother Rhys, now 10, after making a full recovery.

“He’s completely back to normal,” Macgillivray explains.

"Before his operation and before we knew anything was wrong, Jordy would sleep for three hours every afternoon.

“I thought it was just who he was, but now we know it is because he just wasn’t getting enough oxygen to his blood,” she adds.

Now having recovered, Jordy regularly likes to show off his impressive scars from his surgery and though he has to have scans every few years is completely healthy.

Additional reporting SWNS.

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