Little Emmett was just 12 months old, when a seemingly innocent household item almost took his short life. Those tiny button batteries that we use in our watches, remote controllers, and children's toys are present in almost every home. But, like so many others, Emmett's parent were not aware of their potential dangers, when not kept out of reach, and out of site. They did not know that these batteries are as toxic as letting your child drink bleach or drain cleaner from their favourite cup.
Unfortunately, little Emmett found one of these batteries after it fell out of a DVD remote at home. As curious infants so often do with objects they find, Emmett popped the tempting, shiny battery in his mouth and swallowed.... a few seconds was all it took, for an accident to happen, that would change the lives of Emmett, and the Rauch family, forever.
The acid from the battery was so corrosive, that it perforated his trachea and oesophagus, as well as causing one of his lungs to collapse. The precious 12 month old had to endure 10 surgeries, including one to remove 2 inches of his oesophagus. Following the accident, he spent over 9 weeks in the paediatric ICU, had over 100 X-rays, and went under general anaesthetic 14 times.
Many surgeries and scans followed his initial stay in hospital, but thanks to excellent medical care, Emmett miraculously survived his fight with the button battery, but his recovery is still not over. He is currently undergoing a number of therapies, including speech therapy and swallowing therapy, has a tracheotomy fitted, and may have many more battles to come in the future. Luckily, for the here and now, Emmett is a happy and healthy little boy, when he could have had his life cut tragically short.
This site is no longer the official website, but they button battery awareness campaign Emmett's Fight has a new official website, where there is more information on Emmett's road to recovery.
The ingestion of button batteries has increased dramatically in the United States over recent years. According to data from the National Capital Poison Center, in the US every year 3.500 individuals of all ages, ingest button batteries. Sometimes these small, coin-shaped batteries pass through the digestive system, without any problems, but if they get stuck at any point along the way, problems can arise.
The dangers of swallowing these common items, goes way beyond choking. When ingested, they can cause catastrophic damage to the gastrointestinal tract. When the electrical current of the battery, mixes with saliva (or other bodily fluids) it causes a chemical reaction that releases a caustic soda that is extremely corrosive. It can burn through the oesophagus, trachea, and the stomach, resulting in damage to other internal organs. This damage is so extreme, it can result in death.
Lithium batteries are the most dangerous variety of button batteries, due to their higher voltage. The have the ability to burn through tissue and blood vessels, within just a few hours. The organ damage and internal bleeding, caused by the caustic soda is horrific, and more often than not, irreparable.
Parents should also be aware that children may choose to stick a button battery in their ear, or up their nose. This too can also cause damage, especially if the battery comes into contact with any bodily fluids. They can cause rather severe nose bleeds, or even bleeding from the ear. Therefore, vigilance is key, when it comes to protecting your loved ones from button batteries.
Button batteries are almost ubiquitous in any household. They power remote controllers, watches, greeting cards, digital scales, thermometers, calculators, LED lights, amongst other things. They are common enough to be in every room of the household – if one gets loose, or is dropped, it can be swallowed in a few seconds, when a back is turned. Often the first sign a child has swallowed a battery, is the vomiting of blood, by this point it could be too late. Everything should be done to prevent this from happening in your home.
Precautions to take include:
- Ensure that toys, or other button battery-powered devices have lockable battery compartments. Screw enclosures will make it unlikely that a battery compartment will be easily accessible, or that a battery will fall out., making them safer for children to be around.
- Lock away spare batteries in their original blister packaging, keeping them out of sight and out of reach. Used batteries can also pose a risk, and therefore, always be disposed of properly. Dispose of used batteries as soon as possible, many supermarkets have battery disposal bins. Never put used batteries in with your general household waste.
- Only buy devices and toys from reputable retailers, and ensure that they adhere to all safety standards.
- Be extra careful with devices that don't have lockable battery compartments, taping down the battery compartment with durable duck tape. If possible do not let your child have access to these products, and keep them out of reach. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
- Inform your friends and family about the dangers of these innocent looking items.
If the worst should happen, and your child has (or you suspect your child has) ingested a button battery, time is of the essence, as irreversible damage can happen so quickly. Never wait for symptoms to present, give them a drink, or try to induce vomiting. Stay calm, and immediately seek medical attention at your nearest A&E department. If possible, take with your the gadget which held the battery, so the type of battery can be identified by medical staff.
Emmett's mother, Karla Rauch, started Emmett's Fight to create awareness about the dangers of button batteries, particularly when they are ingested. She has become an advocate of improving education about the catastrophic dangers of these common household items, when ingested out of the curiosity of exploring children and infants.
Emmett was extremely lucky to survive, but other children may not be so fortunate. It is so important to educate yourself, your family and your loved ones, about the dangers of these bite size batteries, and learn how to have them in your home safely. It is also important to educate children – in the event that they come across button batteries - that they are not toys, and should never, ever be put in the mouth, or anywhere else.
If Karla Rauch, can prevent more families from going through the pain that they went through, her campaign will have been a success. However, Karla is not just an advocate for awareness, she also started the campaign to provide support to the families that have been through what she went through.
When Emmett was in hospital, she searched online for support, but found that there was very little. She and other families had no where to turn. In fact when she was in a hospital in Phoenix with Emmett, a Hispanic family were admitted with a boy, suffering the same problem. Unfortunately, there was language barrier problem, and Karla was asked to speak to the family by social workers. It was at that point that she had found her mission, and a real purpose. The Rauch family started their awareness campaign, joining forces with National Poison Control and Safe Kids.
She has bravely shared her story, and the story of Emmett's recovery to selflessly help others. Emmett is such a brave little boy, who has gone through so much, but has emerged from the other side, smiling. So, join Emmett's Fight today, and make your home a safer place for your little, and big, explorers. You can donate to the campaign to help spread awareness to parents all over the world, and know that you are making a real difference.