A Hertfordshire mother of two whose son was left minutes from death after swallowing a battery wants to warn other parents of the dangers of button batteries.
Hollie Phillips, 27, who lives in Abbots Langley feared for her son Ralphie’s life after the one year old swallowed a small button battery, also known as a coin battery, and quickly became very unwell on Wednesday, August 25.
Hollie said: “The day before Ralfie’s first birthday, I was at home tidying the bedroom. I turned around and saw that he was chewing on something. I didn’t think anything of it at first; kids are always picking things up and I just assumed it was a piece of food. Within 15 minutes, he was screaming and crying uncontrollably and projectile vomiting black acid.”
Ralphie was taken to Hemel Hempstead Urgent Care and later to Watford A&E, where metal detector scans showed up clear and doctors tried to work out what had happened. As his condition became progressively worse, Ralphie was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital trauma centre in Cambridge, and an x-ray revealed a battery was stuck in his chest.
Doctors had to act fast, as the battery had already been in his body for 21 hours. Emergency surgery was carried out for three hours on Ralphie’s first birthday, August 26, to remove the battery.
Ralphie survived the surgery, but the battery had caused damage, burning a hole in his oesophagus and leaving internal burns. He remained in hospital for 17 days until Saturday, September 11, and was fed through a tube until the hole in his oesophagus closed up. He will return to hospital for a second surgery in mid-October.
Explaining the horrifying events, Hollie said: “We are very, very lucky that he has somehow survived. The NHS staff were amazing. We want to raise awareness so other parents know of the dangers and can see the signs.
“Listen to your own instinct; if you think something isn’t right, then it usually isn’t. Even if you don’t see the child swallow anything, these signs can save a child’s life. Do not have button batteries in your home; throw away any toys with them in; do not change car keys, watches etc in your house with these they are not worth the risk.”
Following a whirlwind few weeks, Hollie warned others by posting a video on Instagram, which has been viewed more than 750,000 times, highlighting the signs of button battery digestion and what to look out for.
Signs a child may have swallowed a button battery
- Inconsolable screaming
- Arching of back
- Brown vomit with blood or black spots with a strong acid smell
- Excess saliva and dribbling
- Unable to swallow
- Refusal of food or drink
- Eyes rolling back
- Change of colour to the skin
Hollie wants to use Ralphie’s experience to raise awareness and work with schools, nurseries and toy companies to campaign to make button batteries safer and less accessible to children.
Ralphie’s family have also got behind a petition called Lee’s Law, following the tragic death of another child, Harper Lee, who sadly died due after swallowing a button battery in May 2021. The petition campaigns for button batteries to be banned from non-essential items. To sign the petition, visit chng.it/hPph2CP7ZC
For more information on button batteries from the NHS, visit gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-we-treat/button-batteries-using-them-safely/