Family of Reese Hamsmith Warns of Dangers After Toddler Dies From Swallowing Button Battery

Doctors initially diagnosed 18-month-old Reese with croup, an upper respiratory infection, until her family noticed that a button battery was missing from their home.

Trista Hamsmith had no idea about the dangers of button batteries until her 18-month-old daughter, Reese, swallowed one last year. Reese died in December 2020 after being hospitalized because the battery created a fistula, a hole from the esophagus and through the trachea.

“I had never heard of anyone ingesting a button battery before,” Hamsmith said. “Obviously, as a parent, you know ingesting anything is not okay. But I never knew what could happen.”

Last Halloween, Hamsmith said Reese woke up sick and “not her usual self,” so she took her to the doctor. The doctor diagnosed Reese with croup, an upper respiratory infection. It’s a common misdiagnoses for button battery injection. The family went home, but the next day when they realized a battery was missing from their home, they rushed Reese the emergency room.

“I think I just kind of went into mom mode and it's a lot of shock. To be honest, you just do what you have to do,” Hamsmith said of realizing Reese had swallowed a battery. "We're a tough family, and Reese was a tough little girl, so it was just, we can get through this.”

A doctor confirmed that Reese had ingested the battery. The 18-month-old had to get emergency surgery to remove it and was placed in the intensive care unit for a few days before being released to go home on a liquid only diet.

Later in the week, Hamsmith visited the pediatrician to have Reese checked out as a precaution, but doctors said they were worried that a hole may have been created by the battery, so again Reese was rushed the emergency room for a scan. It confirmed the family’s worst fears.

"Once a button battery is removed, it actually continues to burn for days. And during the time from when we left the hospital, and getting back to that CT scan, it had burned a hole through her esophagus and through her trachea,” Hamsmith said.

Reese had to get another surgery to place a G-tube to give her nutrition, but unfortunately she never got to leave the hospital. She passed away on Dec. 18. 2020. Now, her family is trying to spread awareness about the dangers of button batteries and hopefully see law changes as well.

“I spend lots of time reaching out to different congressmen, telling Reese's story, hoping that at one point we can get a bill to the Hill, and get these changes to help protect our children,” Hamsmith said.

“I would like to see battery compartments become more secure. Ideally, I would like to see a screw added to all devices that have button batteries in them, so that you're actually having to take a screwdriver to the screw, to take that apart. That way, a remote can't drop and the back busts off. It's that simple,” Hamsmith continued.

The family has also started an organization in honor of Reese, called “Reese’s Purpose.” The organization was founded to identify and correct safety issues impacting children and families. Despite Reese no longer being here, her life did and still does have a purpose, Hamsmith said.

“I just knew there was a plan for this, and Reese has a purpose, and we're going to get through it,” Hamsmith said. “And her and I, and my husband, and my other daughter are going to stand together as a family and warn people about the dangers."

To sign the petition to help pass button battery legislation, click here.

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