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One-year-old Ralphie, from Watford, Hertfordshire, needed emergency hospital treatment after a small round battery entered his throat. Within minutes, he was left crying and projectile vomiting.
A metal detector at the hospital came back clear, however mum Hollie Phillips, 27, knew something was wrong after assuming Ralphie had eaten cereal off the floor.
Thankfully, her instincts were proven right while still in hospital as Ralphie was ‘minutes away from death’ ahead of surgery to remove the battery on his first birthday, 26th August.
Hollie said: “I went from planning my son’s first birthday to his funeral. He was drifting in and out of consciousness in the ambulance and basically dying in my arms when we got there.I was terrified."
“If it had been ten or 15 minutes later, then he might not have made it.”
Despite Ralphie having open heart surgery when he was born, as he had holes in his heart, Hollie admits feeling more anxious about this procedure.
“I know children swallowing things all of the time but I don’t think they need to be surgically removed. With the open-heart surgery, I knew he was going to be fine as doctors are always doing it. I didn’t have a clue what the outcome of this one would be."
She added: “We were discharged from the hospital on the evening as a metal detector didn’t pick anything up but I knew something was wrong - it wasn’t a bug.
"His back was arched and he wouldn't stop crying. I went back to the hospital as he was very lethargic, excessively dribbling and being sick. The colour had gone out of his face and he looked almost grey.”
An x-ray revealed a battery was stuck in Ralphie’s chest. Hollie and Ralphie were blue lighted to Addenbrooks Hospital in Cambridgeshire and Ralphie was rushed into the theatre.
The complex surgery took three hours and two surgeons were required to remove the battery via his throat.
“Ralphie is being tube fed as the battery acid has damaged his windpipe and oesophagus," she said.
"I didn’t think I had these batteries in the house but they are in a lot of toys.
Hollie hopes Ralphie’s story encourages other parents to dispose of items that have button batteries.
She said: “They are in a lot of toys and they don’t require a screwdriver to remove. You can just flick them out which is very worrying.
“The batteries are small and shiny - they can be swallowed like a Smartie by kids. They shouldn't be allowed in toys.
"I hope Ralphie's story helps other parents spot the signs which include screaming, eyes rolling back, change of skin colour and brown vomit that smells like acid.
"I urge other parents to trust their gut and always get a second opinion.
"Do not leave the hospital until you are satisfied with the diagnosis as you know your child more than anyone else.
“I hope Ralphie’s story helps prevent this happening to other children.”
According to The Battery Controlled, when a coin-sized lithium button battery gets stuck in a child's throat, the saliva triggers an electrical current.
This then causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the oesophagus in as little as two hours.
Kids under the age of four are at the biggest risk, but all children of any age should be taken to A&E immediately if you suspect they've swallowed a battery.
You can find out more about the dangers of button batteries on the CPR Kids website.
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