Parents raising awareness after San Tan Valley toddler swallows button battery

What doctors initially thought was an ear infection turned out to be a button battery that was lodged into 19-month-old Luke McMillian's esophagus.
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 10:42 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Luke McMillan could have lost his life when he swallowed a button battery days after his 1st birthday in June. Now, he is 19 months old and still recovering. Luke is the youngest of five boys. “I would have to say he definitely completes our family, and I am so glad that he is still here with us,” said Luke’s mom, Erica.

But days after his birthday, Erica said he had a fever. A doctor said it could be an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics. They didn’t help. “He was swallowing food and choking. Then he was spitting it right back out,” said Erica.

After five weeks of looking into the problem, doctors ran x-rays that showed a circular object lodged into Luke’s esophagus. He was rushed to the hospital and went into surgery. “The thought of losing him was just sad and devastating,” said KC. “I was devastated, and I lost hope while he was in there,” Erica added. Surgeons told Luke’s parents that he might not survive the surgery, but he did.

Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a Pediatrician and the Spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said button batteries can do severe damage by producing an electrical burn. “Some of the electrical burns can happen within two hours. Sometimes kids will give an indication that that’s going on. They complain of chest pain. They might be throwing up and refusing to eat. They might even be spitting out or vomiting blood,” said Dr. Kirkilas.

Luke wasn’t showing those severe symptoms due to the battery being wrapped in tape on one side and a plastic film on the other. It likely reduced contact with tissue.

Dr. Kirkilas said younger kids around Luke’s age are at higher risk of having severe symptoms from swallowing a button battery. That’s because their esophagus is smaller, and batteries are more likely to get stuck. Surgery removal is necessary.

Luke was lucky, but his case is now a cautionary story for other parents. “Be aware. Just be aware of what types of toys you have in your house, what kind of batteries are in those toys,” said Erica.

Luke’s family says the battery came from a toy, but they’re unsure where he was when he swallowed it. Luke is still struggling to eat solid foods. He’s had surgeries, including one last week. However, his mom said he was able to eat a banana recently.

He will need a couple more surgeries. His parents’ insurance won’t cover the costs, so they’ve set up a GoFundMe page for Luke.