It took just a couple of seconds for Yusuf to find and swallow the nickel-sized button battery in the drawer next to his parents’ bed last September. It happened so fast Sandra and Nader didn’t know what their then-18-month-old had ingested – or that he had swallowed anything at all.
When Yusuf began regurgitating everything he ate or drank for days, Sandra took him to an emergency department close to their suburban Chicago home and insisted the baby get X-rays and scans. That’s when doctors discovered the button battery stuck in the boy’s esophagus and immediately sent the family to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
“You can Google-search kids eating batteries, and it’s not a fun Google search,” Sandra said. “There’s a lot of death.”
There are around 3,500 incidents of button battery ingestion reported to U.S. poison control centers each year, and the proportion of children with serious injuries or death from button batteries has risen dramatically in recent years, according National Battery Ingestion Hotline data.
That night, the family met with pediatric ENT doctors with Lurie Children’s Division of Otolaryngology, and Mehul Raval, MD, MS, FAAP, FACS, a general pediatric surgeon and Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The same night, ENT surgeons, Dr. Raval, and team of pediatric anesthesiologists and nurses were able to surgically remove the battery from Yusuf’s throat. The procedure went well, but the family received gutting news: the battery had eroded through the baby’s esophagus and into his bronchial tube. Eating and swallowing, even his own saliva, was dangerous and could affect his lungs and breathings.
Yusuf would stay in the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit while Dr. Raval worked with other specialists at Lurie Children’s and from around the country to determine the best next steps. The plan was to keep Yusuf hospitalized and allow his esophagus and bronchial tube to attempt to heal on their own for as long as possible. Then Dr. Raval and team would perform a second, reparative surgery that would ensure Yusuf could eat and drink on his own, no longer requiring the hydration and nutrition he was receiving through an IV while hospitalized.
After about four weeks in the hospital to heal from reparative surgery, Yusuf was well enough to be able to eat and drink liquids without assistance and was finally able to go home to his family.
Today, he is two years old and working with speech and feeding therapy. He routinely reunites with Dr. Raval to undergo an esophageal dilation to further stretch and strengthen Yusuf’s esophagus. Dr. Raval and Sandra are optimistic the toddler’s progress will continue.
Sandra said she now encourages families with young children to not keep button batteries around their home. Buy them only as needed or store them with chemicals and other items out-of-reach of children.
“It’s like bleach – you would lock that away from your child, but you might not think of a battery as something to keep hidden,” she said.
Sandra said she is thankful for Dr. Raval’s expertise and compassion, and thinks of it every time her active toddler laughs and plays happily with his five siblings.
“We are incredibly grateful,” Sandra said. “I don’t think you can complain if you think about what could’ve been.”