Perth boy lucky to be alive after swallowing a button battery
The 9th of July 2015 was an ordinary day for busy mum-of-three Danielle Stubbs at her Woodvale family home.
Her eldest daughter’s ‘Frozen’ microphone was not working and Danielle had unscrewed the battery compartment, removed the dead batteries and put them on the kitchen bench ready to take them with her to the shops so that she could buy replacements that matched.
Each battery was only the diameter of a five cent coin, however, despite the batteries being small they were about to cause big trouble.
Danielle’s five-year-old son Hudson approached his mum with a worried look on his face.
“Mummy, I swallowed something,” he said.
Within minutes Danielle had deduced that Hudson had picked up one of the shiny button batteries from the kitchen benchtop and after feeling a slight fizzy sensation when putting it on his tongue, he had swallowed it!
“I grabbed the undigested battery and I furiously looked online to find out what the risks were. I phoned the Poisons Information Centre and they told me to get Hudson to a hospital emergency department as soon as possible,” she said.
“I remembered seeing on the news about a little girl over East dying from swallowing a button battery and I was really starting to panic.”
At the hospital the computers were down and Danielle waited an agonising one hour for Hudson to be seen by a doctor.
“I kept researching online and I knew it was really serious so I urged them to see him quickly. All of a sudden things became urgent and when they did the x-ray, there was an ambulance on standby to transfer him to another hospital for an operation if needed.
“I was really anxious but he must have a fast digestive system and thankfully the battery had passed his oesophagus without burning it.”
With the button battery well and truly in Hudson’s digestive system, the doctor told Danielle it couldn’t be surgically removed easily.
“I was asked to take him home in the hope he would pass the battery naturally. They asked us to return in 48 hours if that didn’t happen and that’s when they would look to intervene with surgery.
“It was really stressful waiting for the battery to pass and trying not to put Hudson under pressure. When it left his body a day later we were very, very relieved.
“That was nearly six months ago and Hudson’s been fine since but we know we’ve been extremely lucky and I’ll never forget it.”
In Australia there have been two child deaths related to the ingestion of button batteries and some children who have survived swallowing a button battery have been left requiring multiple surgeries.
Videos about the tragic death of four-year-old Summer Steer in Queensland and the ongoing medical ordeal of a one-year-old called Hunter in Victoria can be viewed at www.productsafety.gov.au.
Here in WA, Danielle hopes her family’s story acts as warning to other parents and raises awareness of the danger of button batteries, which can easily be found in the average household.
“We had a light-up cup from the cinema, which had button batteries that could be accessed easily and at Christmas-time there are so many flashing and musical things with button batteries in them.
“Make sure your kids can’t get hold of button batteries and if you take any old batteries out of toys because they’ve lost their charge, make sure you don’t leave them in reach of children.
“One thing I’ve also learned is that you should never make a child vomit if they’ve swallowed a button battery.”
Safety tips from Consumer Protection:
- Keep loose coin-sized button batteries (new or old/flat) and devices which contain them (remote controls, garage door clickers, digital scales etc.) out of reach of children.
- Check battery compartments are secure and supervise children playing with battery-operated toys.
- Dispose of used batteries immediately and safely (safe disposal means wrapping up the batteries and putting them in a bin that cannot be accessed by children or disposing of them at a battery recycling facility without any chance of children getting hold of them during transportation).
- If a child swallows a button battery do not let them eat or drink, do not make them vomit and seek immediate medical attention – a burn can occur in just two hours.
- As well as attending hospital or seeing an emergency doctor, you can speak to The Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for additional treatment information.
- Tell others about the risks associated with button batteries and how to keep kids safe. In Australia, an estimated 20 children per week present to an emergency department with an injury related to a button battery.
- Further information on button battery safety is available at: www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/tag/batterycontrolled.
- WA consumers with concerns about button-battery powered products, such as those with unsecured battery compartments, should report details to Consumer Protection as soon as possible by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 1300 30 40 54.
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