The most common statement I have heard since Kellsey swallowed 2 button cell batteries sometime in the last few weeks is, "What are those batteries even IN, aren't they rare?" Actually, no. They're not. In the last year alone, 3,400 children have swallowed one of these batteries and deaths have quadrupled in the last five years. Button cell batteries like the one below are found in more items than you might realize.
Batteries like these are found in many common household items - remote controls (especially keyless entries to cars), garage door openers, bathroom scales, calculators, clocks, cameras, singing greeting cards, handheld video games, flashing jewelry, pen lights, digital thermometers, cell phones, key chains, toothbrushes, flashlights, watches (and kid's watches), hearing aids, kid's toys and more.
How many of the things on that list surprised you? I have to say, many of them surprised me! Some of them, like the singing greeting cards, I guess I knew had small batteries in them, but I never really thought about it. I never realized that all it would take is a small tear of one of those cards for the battery to fall out in your child's lap. Those batteries, specifically, are not protected in any way.
Furthermore, I never knew the danger that one of these batteries could cause. When a child swallows one of these batteries, if he doesn't choke, it can become lodged in the esophagus. Kellsey's doctors have been telling me how absolutely crucial it is that the battery is removed immediately if this happens. When the esophagus is not being used for eating, it collapses flat. If a button cell battery is in there, the esophagus rubs on both sides of the battery creates an electrical charge which can heat up and burn. The biggest fear is that the battery will burn a hole through the windpipe. If that hole goes into a blood vessel, the bleeding starts heavy and fast and many times children will bleed to death before you can even get them into the emergency room. This is why Kellsey is still in the hospital. With the swelling on her wind pipe still so significant, they don't want to take the chance that a hole will form and bleeding will start... if it did, there is no way we'd get her back to the hospital in time.
Even though the batteries have been removed (one out of Kellsey's esophagus and one out of her stomach) the danger is still very much alive. The electrical charge caused by the battery can continue even AFTER the battery is gone. The swelling of the esophagus can also get worse. Kellsey's esophagus has so much swelling on the outside right now that it's currently 1/16th of an inch away from her aorta. If they hit, it can cause a hole which would cause bleeding. They transferred Kellsey from Memorial in Colorado Springs to the Children's Hospital in Denver, and while they're not really doing anything differently there for her right now - they're just watching her - they have a whole cardiovascular surgery team well aware of her and ready to jump into action immediately if needed. She has IVs in both arms, which aren't being used for anything, but should bleeding start, they will be open and available for instant blood transfusions. Her antibodies are checked every 3 days so they can make sure they have the proper amount of blood on hand that she would need. Even with all these safeguards in place, even though they assured us that everyone in the hospital is aware of Kellsey and her situation and they have a plan, should the worst happen, they admitted that even there, where she's safest, they've never saved a child's life who has started bleeding. It's THAT real.
So here's the problem. Many times, like in Kellsey's case, parents are not aware that their child has even swallowed one of these batteries. The symptoms are very similar to the flu or a respiratory infection - fever, coughing, vomiting, belly pain, chest pain, wheezing - Kellsey's own pediatrician, who we adore, chalked her illness up to a "tummy bug" and was ready to send her home with Zofran. Because I thought she may have pneumonia, I pushed for an x-ray which landed her directly in the ER. However, if I would have taken her home that day, tried to give her Zofran, wait it out, chances are Kellsey would not be here right now. She most likely would have started bleeding at home and we never would have made it back to the hospital in time. It's that real.
So what can you do?
First of all, throw out the musical cards. Even if you think your kids will not put things in their mouths, it's not worth it. I read one case of a little boy who is seven who swallowed one of these batteries. You just never know. I know these cards are cute and fun and kids love them, but they could be deadly. Do not insert or change batteries in front of small children. Give them a little credit, it only takes them one time to watch you open the back of a remote, and they can figure out how to do it. They're not dumb. Do not store these batteries near food, pill bottles or medicine cabinets. Besides children, another age group targeted in these deaths are the elderly who mistake them for a pill and swallow them. Either recycle batteries or wrap them securely and throw them away... preferably in an outside trash can. Keep all products with button batteries out of your child's reach. Since I've been home, I've been surveying my house, checking out toys, flashlights, etc. I found 23 of these batteries in my home. I threw away what wasn't important and put the rest up high. I made sure all musical books required a screw driver to access the battery compartment.
Most importantly, TALK TO YOUR KIDS!!! While Kellsey wouldn't have understood, I did bring home the jar with the batteries she swallowed and talked to Kennedy and Keeghan about them.
We talked about how we don't put things in our mouths, if we're not sure, we ask, we never even pretend to put things like this or coins or whatever in our mouths because you never know when pretending could turn into an accident.
In the last 2 weeks, Kellsey has been sedated 3 times. She's been exposed to radiation via x-ray 8 times. She's had 2 endoscopies, 1 MRA, 1 MRI, 1 upper GI and more tests scheduled this week. Long term, her recovery is going to be grueling. There will always be a risk for scar tissue to develop in the spot where her abrasion is. There will be many tests, more procedures, her GI will be a well-known constant in her life. All to keep her safe... because one day, a few weeks ago, she found two button cell batteries somewhere and decided that she would put them in her mouth.
Please be careful, please watch out. Please don't let this happen to you.