You are here
Button batteries, found in many electronics in the home, pose a little-known risk to small children. We can’t thank Karla Rauch enough for so generously sharing her story to increase awareness of this issue.
-Gary Karton, Director of Communications
My name is Karla Rauch. I live in Phoenix, Arizona with my wonderful husband, Michael, and our two beautiful boys, Ethan and Emmett. On October 16, 2010, our youngest son Emmett had a tragic accident that changed our lives forever.
It was a Saturday and we were planning to celebrate Ethan's 3rd and Emmett's 1st birthdays with friends and family. While pulling Emmett out of his crib, I noticed that his little body was burning up. It seemed more serious than a normal fever so Michael took him to a local Pediatric Urgent Care facility. An hour and a half late to his own first birthday party, Emmett and Michael returned home. The doctor said Emmett had a common cold or flu virus.
The next two days, Emmett's symptoms became worse and worse by the hour. He had no desire to eat; he screamed any time I tried to get him to eat even a spoonful of food. He contracted a horrible cough that was followed by a great deal of mucus. He wanted nothing but to be held - and as parents we felt completely helpless.
First thing Tuesday morning I drove Emmett to his pediatrician’s office. On our way to the appointment, Emmett started vomiting up blood. I was terrified. The pediatrician suspected a severe respiratory infection and immediately sent us to a nearby Emergency Department. The emergency room doctor administered a few breathing treatments and then took an x-ray. When I saw the x-ray image, my heart was struck with fear. What was in my child's throat?
The attending physician came into the room with concern and alarm written all over her face. She confirmed my fears; Emmett had a button battery lodged in his tiny throat. The battery was lodged in his esophagus very close to his fragile heart.
To this day, I don’t remember seeing Emmett choking on anything. I kept thinking, "where did he even get this battery?" (We later realized it was from the remote control to our DVD player. I never thought twice about allowing my children to play with remote controls. They seemed to be fascinated with the buttons.)
Within 10 minutes of receiving this devastating news, Emmett and I were in an ambulance on our way to Phoenix Children's Hospital. Once we arrived, Emmett was immediately rushed into the operating room. A pediatric surgeon, Dr. Craig Egan, removed the tarnished and eroded battery from Emmett's esophagus. But that was only the beginning of a long and, at times, seemingly endless nightmare.
Emmett was in extreme critical condition. For a week and a half, physicians were unsure whether or not Emmett would survive due to the damage that the tiny battery had done to his body.
When a button battery is lodged in the esophagus it sets off a chemical reaction when mixed with the fluid in the esophagus; tissue will start burning within two hours. Physicians advise it is imperative to take a victim to the Emergency Department immediately if a button battery is swallowed.
Almost two years after Emmett swallowed the button battery, he is still dealing with major and critical complications requiring a second opinion from a hospital out of state. Emmett has endured 30-plus surgeries, spent 8 months in a Pediatric ICU and has gone through a partial reconstruction of his esophagus and airway. Emmett still cannot eat by mouth, he is dependent on a gastrostomy tube (G-tube) placed in his abdomen to give him the nutrients his body needs. He also requires a trach to breathe. He will continue to deal with many lifelong medical complications.
Each and every day, Emmett continues to fight. We are so blessed to have Emmett here with us today.
But Emmett is not alone. Each year in the United States, more than 2,800 kids – or one every three hours – are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries. The number of serious injuries or deaths as a result of button batteries has more gone up nine-fold in the last decade.
My husband and I are so grateful to have Emmett here with us today. In honor of Emmett we have started an organization called Emmett's Fight, to help educate parents, grandparents and caregivers about the dangers of button battery ingestion.
Please visit our website and help us make a difference! By taking action, spreading the word about button battery dangers, we can hopefully prevent this kind of tragedy from happening to another innocent child.
Learn how to protect your child from button batteries.