Phoenix boy recovering after swallowing battery

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix boy is recovering after an amazing surgery. Doctors used part of his rib to rebuild his throat.

It is an incredible operation, but what caused the damage in the first place is almost unbelievable.

His throat was literally burned from the inside out by something the size of a quarter -- something that is laying around almost all of our homes.

It was just about three years ago that little Emmett Rauch did something most 1-year-olds do: he found something shiny and popped it in his mouth.

But that something was a so-called button battery, found in things like watches, video games and even greeting cards.

His mom, Karla Rauch, remembers what happened next. “We ended up taking him to an urgent care because it was a Saturday, and they sent us home with a cold diagnosis, saying it's one of those things that was going to get worse before it gets better.”

And things got much worse. The battery actually lodged in his esophagus, and that is where the danger lies, said Dr. Frank Lovecchio.

“There is a positive and negative charge to it, and that charge makes a little arc, and it can cause an electrical burn inside the child," he explained.

Lovecchio is co-medical director at Banner Health's Good Sam Poison Control Center. He says they get several calls a month about children who have swallowed batteries.

If they make it to the stomach, the children will usually actually pass them, Lovecchio said. But if they get caught, “the arc effect where it is the positive and negative usually happens when it is caught up in the esophagus.”
That is what happened to Emmett.

“An X-ray was taken and they could see the button battery lodged in his esophagus. They could actually read the serial number on the battery in the X-ray," Karla Rauch recalled.

The burn was so severe Emmett could not eat or breathe on his own. Two years ago, doctors used part of his colon to repair his esophagus. This week, surgeons in Ohio used part of his rib to give him a more natural airway.

His mom says she hopes this story alerts others to the dangers of the little batteries, something Lovecchio couldn't agree with more.

”What we recommend to parents is to treat all of these things like medications. Those little batteries have to be kept high and away from little children," he said.