Hank Investigates: Button Batteries
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This now-corroded battery almost killed Samantha Oniro. She was playing with a remote in her Framingham home this summer - the battery popped out and she swallowed it. This x-ray shows where it stuck in her throat.
"When you see that line, that means battery," said Dr. Mark Vecchiotti of the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
And that means emergency. These pictures taken during surgery show what was actually happening inside little Samantha: that battery was burning her healthy pink tissue black.
"I didn’t have any idea we could have such a thing in our house," said Susan Adongo, Samantha's mother.
Her doctor knew taking the battery out was a matter of life or death.
“It’s petrifying to see an otherwise healthy child who's just playing in her home one minute to having a serious life-threatening injury the next. It's frightening," said Vecchiotti.
Samantha spent five days in a medically-induced coma so her throat could heal.
"We almost lost her, we almost lost her," said Adongo.
But other parents across the country did lose their children - kids like Aiden Truett. Brenna George. Elainna Redding.
In the past several years, seventeen toddlers have died after swallowing these kinds of batteries - shiny little lithium button cells.
There's probably one of them in your house right now: they power remote controls and car keys and watches and musical greeting cards and talking books. Once they're swallowed, the damage can *begin* almost instantly. To demonstrate, doctors told us just put a battery into a hot dog and see what happens.
Within seconds we could hear a crackling sound..and soon after, the burning started to show. The moisture in the hot dog-like the moisture in your body--actually creates an electrical current! After two hours, this hotdog was seared in the shape of the battery, the meat turned black! After ten hours...look at this one. Doctors say this is exactly what would happen inside your child.
"Each case is absolutely devastating! Children who may never speak normally again, may never eat normally again, who require multiple surgical procedures," said Dr. Toby Litovitz of National Capital Poison Center.
When a child swallows this kind of battery sometimes they'll start choking - and a parent will notice *that* instantly. Sometimes the battery just passes safely through the digestive system. But if the thin little battery gets lodged in the throat or esophagus kids can still breathe. In that case parents have no idea there's a problem, the child might just act cranky or seem like they are getting a cold.
Up in Maine, 15 month old Kacen Porter was drooling and coughing - his mom thought he was coming down with something.
"They had no idea he had swallowed it!" said Julie Navarro, Kacen's grandmother.
Kacen's mom didn't know something was seriously wrong till the little boy started crying uncontrollably a few days later.
That's when an x-ray showed he'd swallowed the battery from his favorite talking book. That battery had burned *all the way through* his esophagus. Kacen had to have five surgeries and until last month was on a feeding tube.
“It happened just like that!" said Navarro.
Across the country, at least 85 kids like Kacen have had major surgery after swallowing these batteries. Like tiny Ally Eckels and Hazel Donovan and Liam Howard. That's why here at Children's Hospital's poison hotline, they're now on high alert.
"We know it's potentially fatal, and parents are not always aware of the dangers," said Dr. Lois Lee of Children's Hospital Boston.
The feds ARE aware--The Consumer Product safety commission just sent a letter to the major battery manufacturers begging them to change the way these batteries are designed. There's also now a call on capitol hill for a new law to require anything that contains these batteries be child safe--so kids can't get at them.
For more information check out: http://www.poison.org/battery/
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