Laveen family shares dangers of button batteries after scary experience with their toddler

Two-and-a-half-year-old Ashton was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and on a feeding tube for over a month.
Published: Aug. 19, 2023 at 9:15 PM MST
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LAVEEN, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It has been a year since President Joe Biden signed “Reese’s Law,” named after an 18-month-old girl from Texas who died after ingesting a button battery.

The small coined-shaped batteries are in things like toys, remotes, and watches. We spoke to the girl’s mom at the time about how this law could save lives. It requires child-resistant seals and more warning labels on products that use the batteries.

Every year, thousands of children are treated in the ER after swallowing a button battery. The Garcia family said they didn’t know anything about the dangers of button batteries until their little boy accidentally swallowed one from an Apple AirTag a few months ago and ended up in the hospital.

There’s a lot of love and laughter in the Garcia home in Laveen. It’s hard for parents Christina and Mitch to understand how something so small could have changed their lives forever. “Initially guilt because I couldn’t believe I didn’t know,” said Christina.

Back in March, two-and-a-half-year-old Ashton swallowed what’s known as a button battery. “I took the batteries out of the AirTags and put the AirTags with the batteries inside of a drawer, and while we were sleeping, he climbed on top of the dresser, got ahold of the batteries and then ingested it,” said Mitch.

They woke up to him choking and throwing up, so they jumped out of bed to call 911. An ambulance took Ashton to the emergency room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “So things just started going quickly. They put an IV on him. They got him up to go do his endoscopy so they could remove the battery,” said Christina.

Ashton was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and on a feeding tube for over a month. Doctors explain that if a child swallows a button battery, that can cause burning in the esophagus and, in some cases, the major blood vessel in the heart, which can lead to large amounts of bleeding, long-term complications, and sometimes death.

“It was just so heavy and scary the unknown. Like, they couldn’t give us any definite answers to anything because they had to see how long it was going to keep burning,” said Christina.

It was an emotional moment when Ashton could finally eat by mouth again. Every year around 2,500 children accidentally ingest a button battery. This often happens when a parent isn’t looking, and symptoms do not always appear immediately.

It’s estimated significant damage is done within two hours of ingestion. “If they notice their child having any symptoms of difficulty swallowing, drooling, certainly vomiting, and there is a potential of an un-witnessed ingestion, then you need to bring that child to the emergency room to be evaluated,” said Dr. Ashish Patel, Division Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at PCH. Dr. Patel said there is a protocol for button battery cases, which immediately require urgent medical treatment.

The Garcias are now posting on social media to share their story, in hopes that spreading awareness helps other families protect their children. “Just want to make sure everybody knows,” said Christina.

Some companies are taking a proactive approach and are now putting a bitter coating on button batteries so that if this happens, it will hopefully taste bad, and the child will spit it out.

Another tip from doctors is to give your child small sips of honey on the way to the ER if you think they may have swallowed a battery. The biggest message is not to delay medical care.

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