Toddler Fought for Life After Swallowing Magnets


When Lexi Kendall’s 2-year-old daughter, Ava, plucked nine pellet-sized silver magnets off of her fridge and ate them, the mom had no idea how seriously ill mini magnets can make kids.

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Ava landed in intensive care during the week of Christmas, “fighting to live,” Lexi told KTRK about the child, who was only just transferred out of the ICU on Tuesday after more than two weeks in the hospital.


Ava in the hospital. (Photo: KBTV).

Lexi first realized there was something wrong when Ava “started clutching her stomach, screaming in pain” for no apparent reason, the Houston mom told KHOU. So Lexi took Ava to a walk-in clinic, where the staff told her that the child had a stomach flu.

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Fearing something worse, the mom turned to the ER at Texas Children’s Hospital, where a scan showed nine pellets in Ava’s intestines — and Lexi recognized the objects as part of a gift similar to Buckyballs, which were banned in 2008 by the U.S. by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In a 2012 press release, the CPSC offers examples of a 2-year-old boy in Mississippi who swallowed eight magnets from a game and caused severe injury to his intestines, as well as a 3-year-old girl in Oregon who ate 37 magnets from an executive desk toy that landed her in the hospital as well.

Kendall’s husband had received the magnetic balls from Swedish friends years ago as a gift. The parents kept the magnets at the top of the fridge because “she couldn’t get up that high, so — little did we know, she could,” Lexi told KTRK. “We didn’t know how dangerous they were,” the mother told KHOU. “Magnets find each other, even though skin. They had burrowed in her intestines, creating holes.”

Following a four-hour surgery to repair Ava’s internal damage and battle infection, Lexi revealed, “The doctors were saying she probably wouldn’t have made it 24 hours.”


(Photo: Facebook/Lexi Kendall)

Calling it a “freak accident,” Lexi wrote on Facebook that the balls weren’t something she even worried about in terms of childproofing. “My Ava is smart,” she explained. “She has never put things in her mouth prior to this. She listens when we tell her, ‘yucky!’ and doesn’t go for it again. The part that is being missed is that toddlers can get into ANYTHING in a matter of SECONDS. It does not matter how high or how hidden you may think something is.”

Had the parents known how damaging ingesting magnets could be, Lexi insisted, “You can bet your butt we would NOT have kept them around.” What’s also “scary” she added, is that “The Buckyballs are still out there. They’re still being sold to this day!! They may be ‘banned,’ but that doesn’t mean they aren’t easy as pie to get a hold of. Knock-off manufacturers are still selling [them] — some even without the warning labels.”

Toby Litovitz, MD and executive and medical director of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C., tells Yahoo Parenting that “most of the cases of kids ingesting magnets involve sets sold as a toy for adults or teens, meant to be a stress reliever or tool to make sculptures, and are obviously not intended for small children. The problem is they’re the kind of things parents could put on display.”

Another source of magnets that could cause harm to kids are those found in jewelry, such as fake tongue piercings or magnetic earrings, she adds. The American College of Medical Toxicology also lists cabinet hardware and decorative items placed on refrigerators as other risky examples.

To protect children, the Safe Kids organization encourages parents to “inspect games or toys that include magnets. Inspect children’s play areas regularly for missing or dislodged magnets as well” and “seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that magnets have been swallowed.” Red flags that a child may have ingested one include signs of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Lexi is hoping that other parents will heed her warning. “If you have magnets, get them away. On top of a bookshelf or refrigerator isn’t enough,” she told KTRK. “I don’t want any parent or any other kid to go through what we have gone through,” she told KHOU, “because it’s awful.”

(Top photo: Facebook/Lexi Kendall)

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