“She was a spitfire, we knew from the beginning she was a world changer,” says Trista Hamsmith, a mom in Lubbock, Texas, speaking of her young daughter.
“On Halloween 2020, Reese woke up sick,” she explains. The toddler was diagnosed with croup but she’d actually swallowed a household item that was causing the symptoms.
“The following day, we noticed a button battery missing in our home,” she says. “The button battery burned a hole through her esophagus and through her trachea.”
So started a nightmare for the Hamsmiths. After surgeries and many days on tubes and wires, the little girl passed away.
“We fought for her for about 40 minutes, doing all the things and we couldn’t get her back,” she says through tears.
“They’re in our digital devices at home, our remote controls, our digital scales, frankly, they’re everywhere in our house,” says Dr. Christopher Grindle, a pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon at Connecticut Children’s, says he sees about 3 to 5 suspected ingestions a month.
And, as in Reese’s case, the batteries can get stuck in airways, producing a chemical that causes serious burns in a matter of minutes. Fatalities are rare, serious injuries are not.
“Because of that and the potential complications, we’ve started a whole button battery response team,” says Grindle. “Time is critical, we’ve got to get that thing out.”
Grindle says, if you suspect your child has swallowed a battery: seek emergency medical care immediately and call poison control. And, if your child is over the age of 1, give them two teaspoons of honey every 10 minutes.
“And what that honey does is coat the battery and prevents some of the injury from occurring,” says Grindle.
“She was the kid who when she walked into the room, everyone took notice,” says Hamsmith who founded Reese’s Purpose to advocate for laws requiring button battery compartments, ensuring that her little daughter’s legacy will change the world.
“To let them know parents want this change, they want to protect their children and we hope they listen,” she says.
The doctor says – be sure to store button batteries in a safe place and know what toys and devices they’re in.