‘Quarter, momma!’ My husband was grilling when our son knocked on the glass door screaming.’: Mom warns of button batteries in household after 20-month-old battles for his life

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“The last time I held my 20-month-old son and saw his eyes open was at 9 p.m. on March 3rd as he was taken from my arms screaming and crying. He was rushed back to surgery to remove what we thought was a nickel stuck in his throat. It has felt like a lifetime going without his hugs, kisses, and hearing his sweet voice. I never imagined how important those little lips and arms meant to me until they were taken away from me.

I have contemplated sharing his story because I felt only the immediate family needed to know the critical situation my son is in. But as I keep talking to nurses and replaying the night it all happened, I feel it’s only right to share with all my friends and family (and their families and friends) so this can never happen to anyone’s young child ever again.

It started as a normal night. My husband was outside grilling burgers while I was cooking food in preparation for the burgers. In a split second, our night changed as our son knocked on the glass door proudly showing his daddy what he had in his mouth. My husband jumped up, immediately opening the door. But just as fast as my husband acted, so did my son. My son ran away, swallowing what appeared to be a nickel.

My husband yells for me saying he swallowed a coin. Being a nurse, I quickly assess my son for signs of choking. He was breathing and still pink. He didn’t seem to be struggling. He was crying, screaming, ‘Quarter, momma!’ (He calls all coins quarter). He then begins to gag and vomit intermittently, telling me it has not passed through his throat.

We rush him to the ER where they take an x-ray showing the coin in the middle of his throat. Docs were reassuring about the coin. All we needed was for it to be taken out and we’d be able to go home that night. No big deal.
Afterwards, we were sent to Children’s hospital where they take another x-ray to make sure the coin had not traveled further.

Courtesy of Ashley Mendez

This time, the surgeons come back with a different demeanor. They asked, ‘Is there any chance your son had access to a button battery?’ My husband and I look at each other and immediately said no, absolutely not. No way. And immediately it hit me. My food scale. We were weighing our food as we cooked and somehow my son got ahold of it and was banging it on the kitchen floor. I remember my mother-in-law yelling at him and removing it from him. But we didn’t think to look for the battery from the back. Maybe others would’ve but it didn’t even cross our minds to look for a battery we so rarely see.

Reality began to sink in because this is possibly the worst thing he could’ve swallowed.

My son was rushed to the OR and prepped for surgery at 9 p.m. The surgery was supposed to take 15-30 minutes, but after an hour, we finally got a call from the nurse saying the surgeon is having trouble removing the battery. They call in the ENT surgeons for assistance. An hour later, we received another call saying the battery was removed and he was moved up to the PICU.

The surgeons were reassuring. The battery was removed after 5 hours of ingestion, so minimal damage occurred but we wouldn’t know the extent of damage until the MRI 24 hours later.

My son is currently in the PICU intubated, on pain meds, antibiotics, and sedation. We received the MRI results last night which were not as bad as it could’ve been, but still bad. We were told he is on the better end of the ‘horrible scale.’ The positive end of the battery apparently created a charge with the negative charge in the blood of the vessel behind his esophagus. This created a magnet between the battery and blood.

The battery began to erode my son’s esophagus tissue, leaving him a hole in his throat. The magnet effect is why the surgeons had such trouble removing it, which ultimately led to prolonged exposure, and worsened the breakdown of his esophagus. He also has an infection in his chest due to fluids from his mouth and tummy leaking into his chest through his hole, introducing bacteria in a place they should not be.

We do not know when my son will be extubated. He was supposed to be extubated last night but 24 hours later, he is still intubated.

My son’s life has changed so much because of this tiny battery. He will no longer be able to eat or drink through his mouth until this hole heals. My son still breastfeeds. He was nowhere near being ready to stop (his choice, not mine), but because of this injury, the decision was made for him and it breaks my heart.

Courtesy of Ashley Mendez

He is on antibiotics to cure the current infection he has, but will continue to be on antibiotics until his hole closes. We will be under constant monitoring while in the hospital but as well as outpatient because our journey doesn’t end once we leave the hospital. We will have continuous ENT follow up appointments to ensure his scar tissue continues to grow and doesn’t end up causing a stricture, which would ultimately narrow his esophagus causing him to choke and gag when consuming things. This would mean another surgery to loosen up the tissue. As well, I’m sure there is much more we are not aware of.

I’m sharing my son’s story because these tiny batteries are in our everyday household items as well as the toys the kids play with. Most of us wouldn’t think any harm could come from a tiny thing like a button battery, but our world couldn’t be rocked more because of the tiny thing. All the surgeons, doctors, and nurses say this is not new to them. Children consuming these tiny batteries happens on a daily basis.

I never knew anything could happen quite like this…not until it actually happened.

Please share this story with all your friends and family so our precious little children don’t have to go through what not only my son is currently going through, but many other children as well.”

Courtesy of Ashley Mendez

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Mendez, and originally appeared here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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