Words can’t describe how grateful I am for my friend Kerry’s posting of the dangers of button batteries each December on her Facebook page.
I read what she posted a couple of years ago. And I tucked the learnings away as we mothers do, hoping that I’ll never have to use the information written in it. The condensed version is that they’re highly dangerous because if they become lodged in the esophagus or intestine, they can cause internal chemical burns. The damage can happen quickly and button batteries are in many household items.
Flash forward to couple of weeks ago. My four-year-old son, one-year-old daughter and I were putting out the Christmas decorations. About half way through, we decided to take a break and read some Christmas stories. Veda, being a typical one-year-old, didn’t want to sit still. So I continued to read while keeping an eye on her. At one point I looked over at her and saw her put something in her mouth.
I looked in there and didn’t see anything, which made me realize that she swallowed whatever she put in her mouth. Right behind her was one of those artificial tea lights with the back off. The button battery was missing. Instantly my heart sank because I knew exactly what had happened. She swallowed it.
If I hadn’t read my friend’s post from a couple of years ago, I probably would have waited this situation out. She wasn’t showing any signs of something serious happening.
She was drooling and had a minor cough. I called our pediatrician right away because I knew how much damage a button battery can do – and how quickly it can do it. So I called my mom to have her drive so that I could keep an eye on Veda. We were at Cincinnati Children’s emergency room within 35 minutes of her swallowing it.
Once there, they wasted no time taking an X-ray. They determined the button battery was stuck in her esophagus. She went straight into the OR to have it surgically removed. It all happened so quickly. From the time she swallowed the battery until she had it removed, it had been a total of three hours.
And here’s what I found surprising. I thought we were out of the woods once the button battery was removed. The doctors told us that wasn’t the case. Veda actually had serious damage to her esophagus and was listed in critical condition. Even after the button battery is removed, the burn can continue to extend into the tissue for a couple of days afterwards and may cause fatal bleeding from burning through the swallowing tube into a major blood vessel.
The next 24 hours were the most difficult. All we could do as parents was wait and pray. Quickly, our community rallied and hundreds of prayers turned into thousands. Justin, my husband, and I had peace that Veda would be healed and have full recovery. The test results came back great — no serious damage.
We feel so fortunate that the injury she sustained is minor compared to what could have been. She was only inpatient for six days. She now has some swallowing issues and can only eat really soft and pureed foods at this point. Before she was able to eat anything. And she has trouble drinking from a sippy cup, so she’s back to a bottle. But with occupational therapy, her doctors expect her to recover.
Since Veda swallowed the button battery, I have read multiple stories about children who did not have as positive of an outcome as she did. Emmett Rauch’s story kept popping up, which you can read about here, here and here.
When I read his story, I think about what could have been, and I realize how fortunate we were. I am so thankful to my friend Kerry who shared that information on Facebook. In fact, I thanked her in person in Veda’s room in the PICU when she came to visit and pray with us.
And this is why I’m sharing my story with you. Every parent of young children needs to be aware of how dangerous button batteries are. I mean, I thought I had gotten rid of every single one in my house. I threw away all of the tea lights the previous year and yet, somehow Veda found one that remained in our storage box.
We will continue to be extra vigilant all year round – but will be hypervigilant in December. Button batteries are in many holiday items – greeting cards, blinking lights, and ornaments. We will pay particular attention to any small items that light up or make noise.
And this year, more than ever, we will count our blessings. I am grateful for my healthy daughter, the power of prayer, and the prior knowledge of the dangers of button batteries. I hope that by sharing my story, other parents will be aware of the same.