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Mother's warning after toddler was almost killed by swallowed battery

By Cate McCurry

Published 11/12/2015

Lucky escape: Eva McCaffrey now five and healthy again
Lucky escape: Eva McCaffrey now five and healthy again
Dangers: Eva as a toddler
Eva McCaffrey in intensive care after the battery leaked fluids into her body
The X-ray showing the lithium button battery she swallowed
What one of the batteries looks like

The devastated mother of a toddler who spent weeks in a coma and almost died after swallowing a button battery has issued a stark warning to other parents about the dangers of the batteries in the run-up to Christmas.

Eva McCafferty was just 14 months old when she was rushed to hospital with life-threatening symptoms and had to undergo emergency surgery to remove the small battery, which had become wedged in her oesophagus, causing burning.

Eva's mum, Kathleen McCafferty (33) from Ballymoney, said the battery fell out of a remote control and her daughter swallowed it without anyone noticing.

"She was violently sick and it was really frothy sick, so I took her to the GP as she was limp and red hot," she added.

"But because she had her inoculation that morning, it was put down to that.

"For three weeks, she didn't eat anything apart from ice-pops because the battery was lodged in her oesophagus and it had discharged, which meant she was vomiting caustic soda."

Eva's throat began to swell and on three occasions she stopped breathing, but it was not until a scan three weeks later that the battery was discovered.

The toddler could have died at any point, a feeling which her mother described as "horrendous".

"We felt guilty about it and the worst part was having to go in and see her lying on a bed in an induced coma," she added. "She was on so many drugs and we didn't know how it was going to impact on her long-term. When she was coming off the drugs, she was hallucinating and screaming. It was horrendous.

"She then had to go on a series of dilations, so for about six months afterwards she vomited every day. She was eating, but there was no space for it to go down. She stopped talking, walking and really went backwards for so long."

Now aged five, Eva is happy and healthy again, and a family safety charity has teamed up with the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, the Public Health Agency and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in a campaign to warn parents, carers and health professionals in Northern Ireland of the dangers posed by batteries.

Paediatric consultant Dr Julie-Ann Maney of the Belfast Trust said: "Although small, button batteries pose a very real danger to children if swallowed.

"I have seen increasing numbers of children presenting with breathing difficulties and vomiting blood as a result of swallowing one of these batteries. This can be fatal. Once the battery has been removed, there are still silent dangers and long-term health problems."

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