Cheryl Bell, 27, Derby tells her story...
My daughter Kacie, 2, climbed onto my lap for a cuddle.
‘What’s wrong, sweetie?’ I asked as she buried her head in my chest.
She’d not been herself all morning. And later that day she started throwing up and having bad diarrhoea.
Concerned, I thought she just had a tummy bug.
Our GP agreed, and prescribed antibiotics. But, a few days on, in February this year, I found Kacie struggling to breathe.
Trying not to panic, I rushed her straight to Derby Hospital.
‘It’s probably pneumonia,’ a doctor told me.
Kacie was taken for an X-ray.
Sick with worry, I stayed with my little girl all night as we waited for the results.
Then, at 3am, a doctor came to speak to me.
‘Kacie’s swallowed a battery,’ she explained.
It was a small button battery, the size of a 10p piece.
My mind raced. How on earth had she got her mitts on one of those?
And then it clicked…
There were a couple of lithium cell batteries in a kitchen drawer at home. I’d had a few spares from when I changed the one in my car keys.
I’d thought that they were tucked safely out of harm’s way.
But Kacie must’ve somehow got the drawer open and found them when my back was turned.
A typical toddler, she was into everything.
She probably thought they were sweets and innocently popped one into her mouth.
Distraught, I couldn’t hold it together.
‘Is she going to be OK?’ I sobbed.
I knew swallowing a battery was dangerous, and I worried about the damage it might do to her poor insides.
Kacie underwent a short procedure to remove the battery, and doctors believed she’d be OK.
Relief washed over me.
‘You had a lucky escape, young lady,’ I told her.
Back at home, I watched Kacie, her sister Layla, 5, and brother Joshua, 3, like a hawk.
A single mum, I had to have eyes in the back of my head.
‘You mustn’t put strange things in your mouth,’ I lectured them all.
Kacie swallowing a battery had given me such a fright, my anxiety shot through the roof.
Then, two weeks later, Kacie suddenly started throwing up blood with clots in it.
Panic set in.
I rushed her straight to hospital, from where she was transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for specialist care.
There, tests revealed that the acid from the battery had burned through her stomach and damaged arteries at the bottom of her back and oesophagus.
Kacie needed emergency repair surgery. But it was so risky, there was a 40 per cent chance Kacie wouldn’t survive the operation.
And even if she did, there was a 50 per cent chance she could be paralysed from the waist down.
Without the surgery, though, Kacie could die from her internal injuries.
‘Just do what you have to do to save my baby,’ I begged doctors.
The six and a half hours she was in surgery were torture.
When I got the news that she was OK, I felt like I could breathe again.
Not only had my little girl survived – incredibly, she wasn’t paralysed.
‘I can’t thank you enough,’ I told her surgeon Dr Oliver Gee.
Kacie recovered amazingly well after the operation.
In the weeks after, she learned to walk again and was on a liquid feed.
Finally, after six weeks, she was allowed home.
She’s able to eat normally again now, but she doesn’t have much of an appetite. But, hopefully, with time, she’ll start enjoying her food like she did before.
She’s having physiotherapy now, as the damage to her lower back has caused her legs to bow. And she needs more checks on her oesophagus, as there’s a chance it may have narrowed.
Kacie is so lucky the battery acid didn’t burn her insides completely, though.
I’ve since been told by the hospital that she’s one of only two children in the world to have survived swallowing a button battery.
I find the thought of how close I came to losing her absolutely terrifying.
Hopefully, other parents can learn from Kacie’s story: Keep all batteries locked away and well out of reach of little fingers.
Kacie is one of the lucky ones, but the next child might not be so fortunate.