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Deadly button batteries are sending 20 Aussie kids to hospital weekly

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 16/04/2019 9News Staff

a person holding a baby: Every week in Australia, around 20 children are taken to hospital with fears they have ingested a button battery. Melbourne girl Shaylah Carmichael was one of them. © 9news Every week in Australia, around 20 children are taken to hospital with fears they have ingested a button battery. Melbourne girl Shaylah Carmichael was one of them. Every week in Australia, around 20 children are taken to hospital with fears they have ingested a button battery.

Melbourne girl Shaylah Carmichael was one of them.

When the five-year-old began to suddenly lose weight and was refusing to eat food, doctors were unable to diagnose the problem.

Shaylah’s mother, Kirra Carmichael, told Today she rushed the usually healthy little girl to the emergency room when she first fell ill late last year, but just weeks ago they still didn’t know if she would ever wake from a coma.

a close up of a person: When the five-year-old began to suddenly lose weight, doctors were unable to diagnose the problem. An x-ray revealed she had ingested one of the deadly batteries. © Supplied When the five-year-old began to suddenly lose weight, doctors were unable to diagnose the problem. An x-ray revealed she had ingested one of the deadly batteries. “They put her up in intensive care and she was in an induced coma for two-and-a-half days. We didn’t know what was going to happen,” an emotional Ms Carmichael said.

“We were like, ‘she’s got a blockage or a narrowing of the oesophagus or something going on in her throat’.”

An X-ray scan that was taken of Shaylah’s chest revealed she had swallowed a button battery the size of a coin.

“I just looked at the screen and you could just see a circle sitting right there,” Ms Carmichael said.

“I thought, ‘oh it looks like money’.”

The tiny, often hidden, button batteries can be found in most rooms of a family home and have been revealed to be deadly.

The batteries have been responsible for fatally poisoning several Australian children in recent years and landing even more in hospital.

a person holding a child: Shaylah's mother, Kirra, told Today that the young girl was rushed into emergency surgery and was eventually put into a two-day coma. © 9news Shaylah's mother, Kirra, told Today that the young girl was rushed into emergency surgery and was eventually put into a two-day coma.

After the scan, Ms Carmichael found out that Shaylah had been playing with a household TV remote control months before she was rushed to doctors and had somehow swallowed one of the batteries.

“I said, ‘when you swallowed it, why didn’t you tell me?’. She said it got stuck and she went to the toilet and coughed and then she said it just went away, so she didn’t tell me,” the mother told Today.

“We had no idea. She never said anything. You would never think a five-year-old would do something like that.”

a person drinking from a glass: Young Shaylah had been playing with a household TV remote control when she somehow managed to swallow the battery. © 9news Young Shaylah had been playing with a household TV remote control when she somehow managed to swallow the battery.

The little girl was rushed into emergency surgery after being taken to doctors who only just managed to save her life.

It was revealed that if the family had waited just 24 hours more, she would have died.

Every week in Australia, around 20 children are taken to hospital with fears they have ingested a button battery.

a little girl sitting on a bed: Shaylah's incident is just one of many where children have been hospitalised or killed as a result of the batteries. © Supplied Shaylah's incident is just one of many where children have been hospitalised or killed as a result of the batteries.

Shaylah’s incident comes just four years after one-year-old Isabella Rees died after one of the batteries became lodged in her oesophagus.

Two years before that, a button battery also claimed the life of four-year-old Summer Steer, and in the United States toddler Emmett Rauch underwent 65 surgeries and a tracheotomy just to be able to breath and speak again.

Delia Rickard, the deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), this morning told Today that since Summer’s death a lot of regulatory work has been done to prevent deaths.

a person holding a baby: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said it believes more needs to be done to keep children safe from the batteries. © 9news The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said it believes more needs to be done to keep children safe from the batteries.

“There are number of actions that we’ve looked at with all of this to ensure that all products that contain button batteries have those securely encased in something that either need to be screwed in, bolted in or you need two independent simultaneous actions to open,” she said.

“(We have been) working with retailers to ensure that they would not stock any products that contain button batteries that weren’t securely contained, making sure that batteries were sold in childproof packages and with proper warnings about the dangers of them, making sure that when products were sold which contain button batteries, warnings were given.”

Ms Rickard also said that the ACCC is currently reviewing its response to the issue and believes more needs to be done, despite awareness still being raised among doctors.

a woman standing in front of a mountain: ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said awareness around the health risks presented by the batteries is slowly growing. © 9news ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said awareness around the health risks presented by the batteries is slowly growing.

“Our preliminary views are that while some improvements have been made, there is still too many products out there which aren’t adequately secured and more is likely needed to be done,” she said.

“It is very difficult to diagnose but more does continue need to be done to raise awareness of this problem amongst the medical profession.

“We’ve certainly been in contact with various medical colleges - work is being done by Kid Safe and there are a range of fantastic doctors out here in Australia, like Ruth Barker, who are promoting this cause among her colleagues and the need for awareness.”

As for the Carmichael family, Shaylah’s story is being shared in the hope it can warn other parents about the dangers of the tiny batteries.

“I know my child. I know when there is something wrong – you just get that feeling,” Ms Carmichael told Today.

“You just want to look after your kids and do the best you can.

“I just think, if I had gone home when that paediatrician told me to – would she still be here?”

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