Paul Baxter was coughing. Coughing a lot. Coughing up yellow mucus and generally feeling unwell.
Doctors feared that 47-year-old Baxter, a smoker, had cancer. An X-ray showed what looked like a tumor.
So he went to a local clinic – and the “tumor” turned out to be a toy Playmobil traffic cone he had inhaled at age 7.
According to media in England, Baxter had received a Playmobil set for his birthday and somehow ingested the dark orange object.
“The doctor went in with the camera to start with, and he says ‘I can see something,’ ” the mail worker told the BBC, as reported by the local Manchester Evening News, “and he has little pincers on the end of his camera.
“He says ‘I can’t reach it with these, but there’s something definitely there. It’s orange. I can’t grab it. You’re going to have to come back and we’ll do it again and I’ll use a longer one.”
So Baxter, of nearby Preston, went back to Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital, where they used a longer probe.
“We were watching it on the screen and nobody could tell what it was,” he told the station, “and it was that little thing that came out of my mouth.
“And everybody just fell about laughing.”
Baxter said he didn’t recall how it happened. “I don’t remember eating them,” he said, “But obviously I’ve had it in my mouth, and like the doctor said, I’ve inhaled it. Because normally if you swallow it goes down the other pipe and passes through you.”
The doctors involved decided they would write up the incident in the prestigious British Medical Journal, saying the case was unusual.
“While it is a common occurrence for children to accidentally inhale small objects,” they wrote, “a case in which the onset of symptoms occurs so long after initial aspiration is unheard of.”
Four months after the removal of the tiny traffic cone, the patient's cough had almost gone and his symptoms had improved markedly, The Guardian reported.
Meanwhile, Baxter told the Evening News that he plans to keep the cone as a memento and pass it onto his grandchildren.
However, he said, he plans to keep a close eye on them.