The 17-month-old baby had trouble eating and breathing after ingesting the battery. Despite multiple operations, they couldn't save her.
A heartbroken mother is raising awareness about the dangers of button batteries that caused her to lose her 17-month-old child. Reese had unknowingly ingested a button battery that eventually burned a hole in her esophagus which eventually led to her death. Trista Hamsmith, Reese's mother, wants to warn other mothers about the dangers of the button battery and is pushing for Congress and the tech industry to do something about it to cut out the deaths and injuries from babies ingesting button batteries. Hamsmith noticed Reese was struggling to breathe for the first time in October, reported Today. She took her daughter to a pediatrician, who told her it was likely to be croup, an infection of the upper airway which obstructs breathing.
Later, Hamsmith noticed a button battery was missing from a remote control. Dread filled her as she connected the dots. Hamsmith rushed her daughter to a local emergency room where an X-ray confirmed what Reese feared — her daughter had indeed swallowed the tiny battery. It had also caused a hole in her esophagus. “Once the battery is ingested, it starts to erode and it starts to burn,” said the 39-year-old mother from Texas. “Button battery ingestion is so much more common than people realize.”
Reese Hamsmith was a lively child and the lifeblood of their home. She was at the center of everything and acted the part. “It’s almost like she demanded applause,” recalls her mother. “I’m not even kidding — she captivated the room.” It was one of the reasons the alarm bells in Trista Hamsmith's head went off when she saw her daughter lethargic, and wheezy. "She had trouble eating and breathing. After the hospital confirmed she had ingested the battery, they performed emergency surgery to remove the battery.”
"The battery burned a hole in her trachea"
She was clear to go home after the surgery but Reese's condition began to decline again. The hospital staff carried out a CT scan that a passageway had been created which meant the air and the food didn't necessarily go into the passages that it needed to enter. “There was a hole burned through her trachea and through her esophagus," said Reese's mother. They gave the toddler a gastronomy tube to bypass that hole and kept her on a ventilator. “That morning was the last morning that we saw her as herself,” said Hamsmith.
"Her vitals plummeted"
Doctors decided to perform multiple surgeries to repair the fistula and a tracheostomy but her condition worsened after showing early promise each time. Her vitals started plummeting again.“I started praying. They did CPR, all of the things, for about 30 to 40 minutes.. I had never prayed so hard in my life or begged God like that," said Hamsmith. "We just didn’t get her back.”
Dr. Emily Durkin, a medical director of children’s surgery at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said button batteries often get trapped at the upper and lower end of the esophagus. “(This) completes that circuit, and electric current actually flows through the esophageal tissues. And when that happens, it starts to kill the tissues at the burn,” said Durkin, medical director of children’s surgery at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Durkin added that the injury can have devastating consequences for a child.
Pushing for change
Hamsmith is urging manufacturers to make safer batteries and is calling on Congress to address the issue. “We just need safer batteries,” said the 39-year-old mother. “Kids are dying,” she said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to get this information to parents and put pressure on the industry to make changes to protect the kids.” She has now launched an organization called "Reese's Purpose" to advocate for safer batteries on Facebook.