'It hasn't fazed her': Toddler faces throat reconstruction after swallowing teddy bear eye last year

A Regina toddler is recovering, but will undergo more surgery next month after she swallowed a plastic eye from her teddy bear and it became lodged in her throat.

Regina child set to have reconstruction surgery sometime in August

Doctors are optimistic that Hailey Wudwud can recover after she swallowed a teddy bear eye and it became lodged in her throat. (GoFundMe/Cyndi Gabora)

Hailey Wudwud was only a year old when she fell ill and was sent to the intensive care unit.

The Regina toddler had swallowed a plastic eye from her teddy bear. It had been lodged in her throat so long it cut a hole in her airway and flesh began growing around it.

"I am scared she's not going to see her third birthday," her mother, Karlon Wudwud, said through tears. 

Hailey's parents first noticed something was wrong last July. They took her to hospital for CT scans and several X-rays before the item was finally noticed in February. It took a bronchoscope to visualize Hailey's airway from her mouth down to her stomach to catch the item.

Lance Payne, Hailey's father, recalled his daughter choking at one point. He performed chest compressions before finally removing food from the girl's throat. She was breathing again and went on her way.

Payne said she gradually began having more and more trouble breathing and eating. She was also having increasingly aggressive coughing fits. 

The plastic eye that Hailey swallowed was the size of a nickel. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

"So we started treating her for asthma and we started checking for allergies ... and sore throats and throat infections, just trying to get a lead on something," said Payne.

"Unfortunately the breathing kept getting worse and worse and worse."

'You're supposed to know these things'

It took two surgeries before the eye was successfully removed from Hailey's airway. 

"You have no idea what that feels like when you walk in there and your not-even-two-year-old is basically kept asleep with all of these meds," Payne said. "It was absolutely a humbling, awakening experience, very terrifying. 

"The entire family was taken by this and we were also pretty upset at the fact that we let it — we didn't know what was going on — I mean, you're supposed to know these things."

Lance Payne, Hailey's father, quit working so he could look after his daughter and four other children. The toddler now spends five hours a day hooked up to a feeding tube because she is unable to eat solids. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

Hailey was in the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon for three months and will likely be going back in August for her next procedure.

Now two, Hailey can't eat solid food. She is fed her meals through a tube in her stomach five times a day. Each feeding takes an hour. 

Hailey has already undergone multiple surgeries but her throat is collapsing. 

Doctors optimistic 

Doctors are going to use a graft from her stomach to reconstruct her throat. During the operation, one of her lungs will have to be shut down.

To be suitable for the surgery, Hailey must be in overall good health but she needs oxygen support frequently. 

Payne said Hailey's surgeon is optimistic about this procedure and said she should be eating by September.

It took two surgeries before the eye was successfully removed from Hailey's airway. (GoFundMe/Cyndi Gabora)

He said he is just hoping she'll be able to sit down at the table with her family to eat Christmas dinner. 

Hailey's parents told CBC they will consider contacting the toy company about the incident but for now that's on the back burner until their daughter gets better. 

Despite everything Hailey has been through, she's still in good spirits. The child is constantly smiling and laughing, although she still has to stop to cough. 

"I'm surprised this hasn't fazed her at all. Like something you read from horror stories, it hasn't fazed her," Wudwud said.

Hailey Wudwud, 2, was only a year old when she fell ill. Her parents didn’t know she had swallowed the plastic eye from her teddy bear. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)


Alex Soloducha is a reporter, social media producer and digital producer for CBC Saskatchewan. She was part of a team that won a Canadian RTDNA award for a digital COVID-19 Kids Q&A. She can be reached at and follow on TikTok @cbcsasknews.


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