'I knew it was really bad instantly': Toddler's finger partially severed in public toilet door

Blake pictured in hospital - surgeons say he will make a full recovery.
Blake pictured in hospital - surgeons say he will make a full recovery. Photo: Lisa Laing

A Sydney mum has warned of the dangers of large and heavy toilet doors in shopping centres after her toddler son almost lost his finger last week.

Lisa and Tony Laing, of Kellyville, and their four children were shopping at Castle Towers on the evening of Thursday, November 15 when Mr Laing took their youngest child Blake, 3, to the parents' room to use the toilet. As they exited the room, the heavy door closed on Blake's finger, almost severing it. 

"My husband was with him and when he rang me - I was waiting at a table just having ordered some dinner - he was crying and I knew it was really bad instantly," Mrs Laing said

Blake Laing, 3, on this way to Westmead Children's Hopsital.
Blake Laing, 3, on this way to Westmead Children's Hopsital. Photo: Supplied

The family endured an agonising wait for an ambulance at the scene, before making the decision to drive their son to Westmead themselves.

"He was very well cared for (at Westmead) and after x-rays and a clean and bandage, we were sent home around 1am for a few hours sleep before heading back on Friday for surgery," Mrs Laing said.

"His finger has been sewn back on, and the nail bed glued on to help protect the nail bed, though it will fall off and regrow again."

Thankfully surgeons believe the broken bone will heal as a normal broken bone would and, because of Blake's young age, the nerves should also grow back.  

"He will end up with just a really cool scar without a nail for a few months," Mrs Laing said.

"He is handling it all much better than the rest of us."

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But Mrs Laing acknowledges that they're "the lucky ones". "We were the third ones in the hospital that afternoon with a finger jam," she says, adding that one child had to have their finger amputated. 

"It's lucky that Tony pushed the door open so it didn't come off completely."

Ms Laing admits that accidents can happen, no matter how vigilant parents are - and even when you think you've seen it all.

"I never would have thought it could happen," she said. "And with four kids, we've seen a lot of what they can do." Her message to mums and dads is clear: "I want to let other people know that you can't just assume because it's a parents' room that it's safe."

Finger jam injuries in young children aren't uncommon with doctors and plastic surgeons previously issuing warnings that they can be serious and lifelong. One previous study, which examined finger jam injuries in a children's hospital over a 12-month period, found that children aged five-and-a-half were the most at risk, and those from families with three or more children. But poor supervision wasn't to blame in the majority of cases. An adult was present in 75 per cent of accidents and responsible for the jam in 25 per cent of cases. For 57 per cent of kids, their finger or fingers were trapped on the hinge side of the door. Six children required a partial or complete amputation.

According to KidSafe, parents can take a number of precautions to prevent door-jam injuries. They, too, note that fingers are most often crushed in the hinge side of doors when they are closed or slam shut.

  • Let older children know how easily little children are injured this way. Ask them to check the door is clear before they close it.
  • Use slow, self-closing springs on front and back doors.
  • Know where children are to avoid closing doors on their fingers.
  • Special strips are available to guard the hinge side of doors. These are very useful for doors which you need to close, such as bathroom and bedroom doors.
  • Use chocks, wedges or catches to keep internal doors from slamming shut.
  • Nursery furniture and strollers can also trap little fingers.

Regarding Blake's injury, Castle Towers Centre Manager Eddie Paynter said the "safety and wellbeing of our entire Castle Towers community is our top priority and something that we take very seriously.

"Our trained security personnel rapidly attended to the child to provide first aid treatment while contact was made with ambulance services."

In relation to the safety of the door involved in the incident he said:  "All our amenities, including the toilet doors, within the Centre are checked daily for hazards but because these doors are typical of non-mechanical, hinged doors found at public facilities they do not require a regular, scheduled maintenance program."