Today My Daughter Ate A Magnet, And I Ended Up In The ER

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“Ever since I read horrific stories about 3 and 4-year old’s choking to death on bouncy balls, we became a bouncy-ball free home. When I heard of little kids getting Shopkins stuck in their airways too, we became a Shopkin-free home. I became that paranoid mom who got rid of all little toys and things that could potentially cause my kids to choke. Having said that, I have actually witnessed my kids swallow coins and rocks before my internet paranoia set in. You just never know what kids will put in their mouths. I thought I had converted our home into a safe zone where we wouldn’t ever have to deal with our kids eating foreign objects again. Plus, our twins are 3 and in my head are mature enough to know better than to swallow things that are not edible. HA!

Two of my kids are in school and three of them stay home with me during the day. We had a pretty productive day on this particular Monday and by the time the older two got out of school, I knew I needed a little bit of time to recoup. After they all had a snack, I sent them upstairs for some quiet time. I wasn’t asking them to nap, I just wanted them to go upstairs and each play quietly in their beds in their own rooms for about a half hour.

About 15 minutes into it, the twins came down the stairs yelling. Halen handed me a magnet and said, ‘Mama, I ate one of these!,’ and Lennon quickly followed up with, ‘She really did Mama! I saw her! She really did!’

Small circular magnet in mother's hand that young daughter said she ate
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

Now…I have five kids. I know when they’re lying about things and I truly relied on that instinct here, figuring there was no way this thing went down her throat or else she would definitely be choking. The magnet she handed me had bite marks out of it and I started to think she had just been biting off little pieces and swallowing them. There was no way she actually swallowed this actual magnet. A magnet? How and why were they playing with magnets? Of all the things I got rid of, I never even considered a magnet to be one. They hold up pictures of families and friends on our fridge.

But Halen kept insisting she did, in fact, swallow this thing.

So, I did a quick Google search like any other mom would do, but the advice was a little back and forth. It was mostly the size of this magnet that had me worried. I started to cry because of my own pregnancy hormones and I called my friend next door. I asked her what she thought I should do. She explained to me that two magnets were really bad and that it can cause a lot of problems. Another phone call to my friend across the country confirmed the same thing. I was told that magnets could rip through intestinal lining if there are two, because they would naturally be attracted to one another. Excuse me, but WHAT? How would I know she only swallowed one?

I decided not to full-on panic. I mean I panicked…but not $300 ER-copay-panic. A $40 urgent care copay seemed like the fairer bet since they’d take X-rays there for me. Plus, it was closer. Looking back, that decision was really sad and pathetic that I even considered. Our healthcare system is a topic for another day.

I sent the kids next door and I made our journey to urgent care. The place was packed, and it was already about 4 p.m. when we got there. I debated whether or not to go and get some food but figured they might not want her to eat. I decided to stay, and we waited in that waiting room for three hours before being seen. When they finally called us back, the doctor examined the magnet I brought in with me and took some measurements of it. She sent us off with the X-ray tech to get some pictures.

I knew this part was going to get tricky, but I prayed that it would work out. Halen is very, very reserved. The idea of laying on a foreign table with a big machine pointed at her was way more than enough for her to lose it. Top it off with mom not being able to stand with her because of the baby in my belly, and it was a recipe for disaster. Oh yeah, and this happened at 7:30 p.m. when she hadn’t eaten since about 1. There were a lot of contributing factors to this catastrophic bomb.

The tech even said, ‘Well let’s just get one and hope that there’s nothing in there so we only have to do the one.’ I was praying, you guys. I was praying! I pleaded with Halen internally, ‘Please be lying about swallowing this magnet… PLEASE.’ I snuck behind the door while he pushed the button for that first X-ray. Halen sobbed and sobbed over the whole experience. He said, Well…we have to do one more,’ and I knew that gosh dang magnet was for sure in her body. This time she had to lay on her side and she was not even close to being able to do that. Her sobs were harder this time and she was not even the slightest bit cooperative. I don’t think that X-ray came out, but he didn’t make her do anymore. Maybe if I could stand there and hold her little arms and legs down, they would have done more. But those were the best they were going to get!

We went back into our little room and the nurse walked in with a brand-new stuffed animal cat. I knew then that gesture was a bad sign about where our night was headed. The doctor was right behind the nurse and explained the magnet would be too big to fit through her stomach and intestines to be passed. She basically said that surgery was imminent. She said we would be transferred via ambulance and I told her it wasn’t necessary unless she was immediate danger right that second. Again, a $5k+ ambulance ride across town was in the back of my mind and was absolutely not going to happen unless she unquestionably needed it. The doctor agreed that it wasn’t dire and she could only see one magnet, so the risk of damage was reduced. She left to call the hospital to let them know we were coming by our own car and as soon as she shut the door, I started sobbing.

This was one of my biggest fears with having kids. I so badly feared them swallowing something that had to be surgically removed. I was ‘that mom’ who isn’t totally publicly judged, but the one that moms behind their screen are texting their other mom friends about. I was ‘that mom’ who  doesn’t clean up the house well enough for her kids, causing them to swallow crazy foreign objects. This was never supposed to actually happen to me…it’s just one of those crazy situations strangers go through.

I called one of my friends and she was the only reason I calmed down. She explained this was just an urgent care and that a pediatric doctor would have better insight. Surgery could happen, but she calmed my nerves by telling me it wasn’t imminent like I am being led to believe. We needed to gather more information at the hospital.

By the time the nurse came back in with instructions, I was as calm as a cucumber. If my five kids have taught me anything, it’s that sometimes you have to wing it and go with the flow. Right now, nobody knows exactly what is going to happen, so let’s just take it one step at a time. The nurse commented on how calm I was about the whole thing and I just laughed. She had no idea how hysterical I just was five minutes ago!

We left urgent care, picked up daddy at home, and headed to the hospital we were instructed to go to. When we arrived, the place was completely filled with people. I prayed that our wait would be much faster having the proof of the magnet X-rays on a CD with us. We only had to wait a few minutes before we were triaged. The PA who was working with us let us know that they don’t do pediatric procedures and that we would have to be transferred by ambulance to another hospital who does. Uhh what? We were specifically sent here by urgent care and you don’t do pediatric procedures? My husband and I were both so confused. We chose to drive ourselves over to the next hospital.

We arrived at the next hospital to again, a packed ER. I learned they only had 25 beds (that were full!) and there were over 200 people waiting to be seen. We quickly got back to be triaged by the PA. He was young and to the point. He uploaded the images taken at urgent care and wanted us to do a series of X-rays to watch to see if the magnet had moved. The biggest concern was the it would not make it out of the stomach and into the intestines to be able to move through and be passed. Daddy was here this time for the x-ray escapade and it went just as horribly in the ER as it did in urgent care. But at least she had her dad standing next to her this time.

Little girl who ate magnet sits in hospital room after receiving x-ray as her father stands beside her
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

Fast forward a few hours and the magnet did make it through the stomach and into the intestines. By the time we were discharged, it was down by her hip. So we knew it was moving fast. She was finally allowed to eat after 12 hours which made all of us feel a smidge bit better! Then the doctor hit us with another bomb: we had to sift through her poop to make sure that it does come out. I’ve done a lot of things with poop in my parenting journey, but I had yet to fish through poop in a toilet for a foreign object. How does one even do that? Plus, this thing was almost as big as a quarter. She had to poop that out? HOW?

Like clockwork the next day, she yelled for me to come wipe her. I said a little prayer that this thing was not painful for her to pass and that it was in fact in the toilet waiting for me. I grabbed a little wooden skewer that we had in a drawer and went to work, poking around down there. Gross. Thankfully that thing was heavy, and it was just sitting on the bottom of the toilet basically mocking me.

Let’s be honest. I never would have known she ate that darn magnet if she never told me. Thank goodness she did! I am grateful she felt safe enough to tell me. I’d rather spend a night worrying about her than an emergency surgery if things really did go very wrong by not knowing. But maybe we could have avoided a whole lot of stress and anxiety, too! Alas, the magnets are donezo here.

Parenthood never fails to teach me that I have not seen everything there is to see. Not even close. It also never fails to prove to me how much I love my kids.”

Father smiles as he holds young daughter who ate a small magnet
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Molly Schultz of Tried and True MamaSubmit your own story here.

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