VICTORIA – A Parksville woman made a disturbing discovery last fall when she found that a medical device had been left inside her body after an emergency caesarean delivery.

Laura Jokinen, of Parksville, says that after the birth of her son last August, she felt constant pain. Then, 10 weeks after her emergency C-section, she found a medical apparatus that was left inside her during the operation.

"I could see that there was wires running up inside me and I was so afraid to actually remove it because I wasn’t sure if it was attached to my insides," Jokinen told CTV News.

"I pulled out a medical apparatus that I'd never seen before," said Jokinen.

Island Health tells CTV News that the device found by Jokinen was a fetal monitor that is placed inside a woman during childbirth in order to monitor a baby's heart rate.

The health authority says the device should have been removed after the operation, and that changes were made to perinatal documentation so that a paper checklist is included for every delivery that ensures every internal device is retrieved.

Island Health adds that it is deeply sorry for the painful mistake.

"We deeply regret that this patient had a poor care experience and we have sincerely apologized to her," said Island Health in a statement on Wednesday.

"We have reviewed the situation and the questions she asked and shared our findings with her."

Island Health says that the policy for perinatal procedures has been changed so that the checklist is reviewed during a general pre-operative safety check and again at the end of each procedure.

Jokinen's case is just one instance of a problem that is being recorded nationwide. Between 2016 and 2018, 553 medical items were found left inside patients, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The 553 items are a 14 per cent increase from the total number of forgotten medical devices found across Canada from 2010 to 2015. Additionally, the CIHI says that the rate of forgotten objects is more than twice the global average, with 9.8 out of every 100,000 Canadian hospital discharges including a forgotten medical item. 

Meanwhile, the global average of forgotten medical items is just 3.8 out of every 100,000. 

While the statistics appear alarming, the health institute adds that there millions of surgeries in Canada each year that occur without issue, and that many countries do not keep track of how many medical items are left over after surgery, which could skew the data.

Countries like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia do not keep track of forgotten surgical objects, says the CIHI.

Over the past five years, Island Health says there have been only two cases in which a foreign body was left inside a patient after a surgery, with neither of the cases occurring in the past two years. 

"While our goal is for this to never occur, when it does happen, we take these events very seriously, conduct full investigations and implement resulting recommendations to improve patient care," said Island Health.