A toddler thought to have tonsillitis after she began rejecting food was found to have swallowed a button-sized battery that had been stuck in her throat – for four months.
Little Sofia-Grace Hill, almost two, was rushed to hospital where shocking X-rays revealed a tiny watch battery – the size of a 10p – lodged in, and burning, her oesophagus.
Surgeons performed a two-hour operation to remove the object and claimed Sofia-Grace’s survival may be due to the battery being old and discharged.
Sofia-Grace Hill, pictured, swallowed a small ‘button battery’ and needed a two-hour operation to remove the object at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children
The battery became lodged in Sofia-Grace’s oesophagus and was stuck for around four months
Luckily, the battery, pictured, was discharged or else the electrical charge could have caused devastating damage
Sofia-Grace’s father Calham Hill noticed there was something wrong as she was having difficulties drinking, breathing and would only eat pureed food.
Mr Hill, from Swindon, Wiltshire , said: ‘I was gutted when I saw it and angry at myself. I blamed myself, but now I realise there was nothing we could have done to know.
‘Sofia is now on a purée diet and doing very well. She is improving week by week with regular dilations which is stretching and improving her oesophagus.’
Sofia-Grace now has to have a general anaesthetic to stretch her oesophagus every two weeks, but faces the prospect of further surgery.
Mr Hill added: ‘The damage has left a pocket in her oesophagus which needs to close, but Sofia is improving week by week with regular dilations which is improving her oesophagus.
‘But I know the chance of survival in the first weeks after this happens is very low, so we are moving in the right direction.’
Calham Hill, pictured with Sofia-Grace said he does not know how his daughter got her hands on the battery
Mr Hill is unsure how Sofia-Grace found or swallowed the button battery and warned parents about the dangers.
He added: ‘Just get rid of them or lock them away and don’t give your child car keys to play with. Always trust your instincts as a parent.’
Janet McNally, consultant paediatric surgeon at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, who is treating Sofia-Grace, said her survival may be because the battery had lost its charge.
She said: ‘Clinicians and the government have been warning of the dangers of button batteries for a long time. But not all parents are aware of how dangerous they can be.’
A hospital spokesperson said: ‘Do not leave button batteries, items containing button batteries, or small magnets lying around the house.
Surgeons have warned that Sofia-Grace, pictured, may require more operations to help with her recovery from her ordeal
‘Keep them out of reach children. If there is any concern that a child has swallowed a battery or magnet, immediately call 999 or attend the Emergency Department (ED).
‘A child may not show symptoms if a battery or magnet is swallowed or ingested but it can have severe consequences if not treated or attended to by medical teams quickly.
‘The newer neodymium magnets are much stronger than normal magnets and are found in many household objects and toys.
‘When more than one magnet or a magnet and another metal object is swallowed, it can cause significant damage to the bowel.
‘The more magnets swallowed, the greater the risk. A lithium battery could get stuck in the oesophagus and can cause a significant burn to the tissues within two hours.’
WHY ARE BUTTON BATTERIES SO DANGEROUS TO CHILDREN?
The slim type of battery are dangerous because children can mistake them for sweets and the size causes them to get stuck in the throat.
When the battery gets stuck, it sets up an electrical current when it comes in contact with the lining of the throat, creating a build-up of caustic soda which causes horrific burns.
Even after the battery has been removed it can continue to cause serious injury and burns.
Although new batteries are more toxic, even ones that no longer work are dangerous and parents are being advised to store and dispose of them carefully.
A demonstration on a hot dog, designed to replicate human flesh, showed how it burns and melts away in three hours.
Source: Paediatrician Dr Katie Parkins, North West and North Wales