SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The number of children swallowing batteries has doubled over the past decade, according to the Journal of Pediatrics. And the batteries they are ingesting are more dangerous than ever. Increased hospital visits appear to mirror the increase in devices in our homes using button or disc batteries.

19-month-old Remi loves her books, and like many other toddlers, everything goes right in the mouth. In July, mom Megan Hulleman and dad RJ Hulleman of Alton, Iowa, could not have imagined the next chapter of their lives when Remi found the remote control for the ceiling fan.

“She dropped the fan remote, and the two batteries had popped out, and I went Remi bring them here, so she brought them over, and I had put the two batteries up here on our couch,” said Megan Hulleman.

Before Megan knew it, Remi had swallowed both of the button batteries. They rushed her to the Sanford Hospital in Orange City and then to Sioux Falls by ambulance. Remi’s esophagus was starting to swell because the batteries were already corroded and stuck to one another.

“They had to push them back down into the stomach because they could not pull them out, and in doing that, the acid burned her throat, said RJ.

Pediatric Surgeon, Adam Gorra, was called in. He knew they had to act quickly because acid isn’t the only danger these batteries pose.

“And the electrical charge can cause kind of an electrical burn in the esophagus, this electrical burn extends through the wall of the esophagus over time and within about 4 hours, you can have permanent damage,” said Dr. Gorra.

Dr. Gorra was eventually able to move the batteries into Remi’s stomach where he could surgically remove them.

Button batteries ingested by toddler
Button batteries ingested by toddler

“It was a total of 7 and a half hours she was in surgery. It was the scariest time I’ve ever had,” said RJ.

“It was supposed to be 15 minutes, and I think that’s the whole like thought process is, we thought this was going to be in and out, it was terrifying, but we thought ok, they are bringing us to Sioux Falls. It won’t be a problem we will go home that night,” said Megan.

It would be eight days before Megan and RJ would get to hold Remi again. She spent weeks in the hospital.

Megan says as a parent, there is a certain amount of guilt that goes with seeing your child go through something like this, she just wants other parents to understand how dangerous button batteries can be for kids.

“It was a freak accident, and I’m thankful we have our daughter, and she is doing amazing, but it is still really hard as a parent to wonder if we could have done something different, like I kind of replay maybe we should have put it up higher, maybe I shouldn’t have picked her up, but I can’t go back, but I can try to prevent it from happening again or prevent another family from going through what we had to go through,” said Megan.

Remi’s prognosis is good, she is undergoing procedures to stretch her esophagus so she can eat normal food.

Dr. Gorra says it’s much safer if the battery makes it all the way to the stomach. A single battery can usually be passed through the body without surgery.