Toddler swallows battery, suffers internal burns

18-month-old undergoes four major procedures to remove coin-like cell, treat damage

  • Dr Mazin Al Jabiri and Dr Balaji Krishnamurthy with Basil on the day of his discharge from Mediclinic City HosImage Credit: XPRESS/Ahmed Ramzan
  • The rogue lithium battery that was stuck in the boy’s food pipeImage Credit: Supplied
XPRESS

Dubai: An 18-month-old boy, who swallowed a lithium ion battery while playing at home, has been rescued from the jaws of death by a team of doctors at a private hospital in Dubai.

The Indian boy, Basil Eldho, who was discharged from Mediclinic City Hospital last weekend, spent a critical three months there, including one in the ICU, after he ingested a 20mm battery he had plucked out of a weighing scale in the living room of his Al Nahda apartment.

At one point, the toddler from Kerala had six tubes coming from his tiny frame.

Food poisoning

The boy’s father Eldho Paulose said the ordeal began last October 20 when Basil suffered bouts of vomiting. A neighbourhood hospital treated him for suspected food poisoning.

“He had fever too and was put on antibiotics. Subsequently, he developed a bad cough which worsened over the next couple of weeks. On November 16, we took him to a local clinic which did an X-ray that showed a coin-like substance in Basil’s throat,” said Eldho, who immediately rushed his son to the Mediclinic City Hospital.

Dr Balaji Krishnamurthy, consultant paediatric gastroenterologist, one of the four doctors who treated Basil, said, “The first task before us at the Emergency was to remove the coin-like substance, suspected to be a lithium ion button battery. We put the boy on general anaesthesia and removed the foreign body endoscopically.”

But there were complications. Although the foreign body was removed from the food pipe, the chemicals in the battery had burned the tissue and created another opening into the wind pipe. “This erosion would have happened in the first 15 minutes of the charged battery being ingested. Fortunately, the battery was drained, or the extent of damage would have been more severe and the case could have proved fatal,” said Dr Krishnamurthy. Besides Dr Krishnamurthy, the other doctors were Dr Ghassan Nakib, paediatric surgeon, Dr Praveen Khilnani, paediatric intensivist, and Dr Mazin Rasool Al Jabiri, consultant physician and gastroenterologist.

Dr Al Jabiri said Basil could not be allowed to eat by mouth because of the danger of it going into the lungs through the hole between the food and wind pipe. “So we had to feed him directly by putting a gastrostomy tube into the stomach. We also had to feed him with total parenteral nutrition intravenously, letting him bypass the usual process of eating and digestion. This gave him the necessary nutrients specially prepared at the pharmacy.”

When the hole failed to close for over a month, Dr Nakib conducted a 10-hour surgery to stitch it shut.

Eldho said following the procedure, Basil had six tubes in his body. “Besides the gastrostomy and TPN tubes, he also had a chest drain to drain out fluid, a tube to suck his saliva out and an IV drip for medication.” The boy had to go back for a procedure in January as the stitched hole still showed a leak. “This time we injected a specially imported glue which is done usually in adults. We had to wait for three more weeks before the glue had done its job and Basil could be fed through the mouth,” said Dr Al Jabiri.

Dr Krishnamurthy, who recently arrived from the UK, said, “I have seen more cases of foreign bodies being ingested by kids in my three months here in Dubai than I have in my 17 years of practice in the UK. Parents should be aware that button batteries if ingested can be significantly harmful and even fatal.”

Basil’s mother Asha Sara, who gave her son a bite of the South Indian pancake Dosa on February 10, said, “I was so relieved that my boy recovered and could finally eat.”

Her husband said, “Parents should be careful because they don’t realise the dangers of kids playing with battery-operated toys, remotes and gadgets. Even small magnets, we now know, can be harmful.”

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