Reese Hamsmith was 17 months old when she woke up one morning in October 2020 “sneezy, snotty, and not herself”, according to her mother Trista Hamsmith.
Ms Hamsith took her daughter to her paediatrician to get her checked. After being diagnosed with croup – the blocking of the upper airway producing a harsh cough – Reese was prescribed some medicine and sent back home.
But the doctor had been unaware that Reese’s body was being burned from the inside after swallowing a button battery, which was now lodged in the child’s throat.
The parents later discovered that a battery from their remote was missing. They took Reese to the ER where it was determined that the battery was burning a hole in her oesophagus.
Following several medical procedures and a long stay at the hospital, Reese passed away in December 2020.
Ms Hamsmith is now sharing the family’s story in an attempt to prevent the same thing from happening to others.
As of Tuesday morning, almost 120,000 people have signed the family change.org petition in support of “Reese’s Law”.
Ms Hamsmith writes on the site that Reese “endured countless surgeries and scopes and was intubated under sedation for 40 days”.
“Reese lost her fight on December 17, 2020, at just 18 months old. Every day we are reminded of just how much our family lost,” she adds.
“There were 4,000 button battery ingestions reported in the US in 2020. It is estimated that only 11 per cent of all cases are reported, meaning this is happening to 36,000 children annually,” she writes. “This can be prevented. Australia recently passed National standards related to button battery safety in consumer products. The US should have the same mandatory safe industry standards.”
Button batteries are small, round, and flat and are used in various portable household items. If they become wet, the current generated by the battery changes the quality of the liquid and generates a corrosive fluid that can be likened to oven cleaner, Yahoo reported.
Batteries, new and old, can generate burns inside the body.
The family has started a nonprofit in Reese’s name – Reese’s Purpose – to identify and inform about safety issues facing families.
According to the organisation, button batteries can be found in items such as watches, car remotes, thermometers, calculators, remote controls, key and remote finders, keyring flashlights, fake candles, scales, and hearing aids, among other things.
The organisation’s website states that “swallowing a button battery can cause severe damage in just two hours. If you think a child has ingested a button battery, don’t wait for them to show symptoms. Go immediately to the nearest ER. Common ingestion symptoms can include wheezing, drooling, vomiting, coughing, decreased appetite and chest discomfort”.
On 30 November 2021, Ms Hamsmith posted on change.org that she was “was invited to testify to the Senate Commerce Committee regarding the hidden hazards of button batteries. I’m so excited that the Senate has introduced Reese’s Law. We are one step closer to it being passed into law”.
The update also said that the law would “create stronger federal safety standards for products with button cell and coin batteries to prevent them from being easily ingested by children”.