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Baby Salma with her parents and doctors at Medcare Women and Children's Hospital, Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Some quick thinking on the part of doctors in Dubai helped save the life of a one-year old child who went into a septic shock after having ingested eight small magnetic balls that caused serious damage to her bowels.

It took three surgeries and a two-month stay at the Medcare Women and Children's Hospital, Dubai, for Dr Mazen Yaser Salowm, specialist paediatric surgeon, and Dr Dima Tarsha, specialist paediatrician, to save the child in end-stage septic shock. Both the doctors have cautioned parents to be extra vigilant about the kind of toys given to infants. In this case, the parents were not even aware that the child had access to the magnetic balls and had ingested them over a period of a few days. They were worried why their child was so sick and brought her to the Emergency section of the hospital.

Magnetic balls caused necrosis and perforations

Recounting the turn of events, Dr Tarsha told Gulf News that Jordanian expatriates Huda Omar Mosbah Qasim and Maher Shaikh Yasin brought their baby girl to the hospital Emergency in the first week of October 2020. “One-year-old baby Salma came in with fever and vomiting. After investigations, we found eight pieces of small magnetic balls lining her abdomen that had caused intestinal perforation. Surgery had to be carried out immediately, because the baby was very sick.”

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The magnetic beads recovered from baby Salma's bowels. Image Credit: Supplied

However, one surgery was not enough, the doctors soon realised. Dr Salowm said: “Usually when a child ingests a foreign body, it passes through the abdomen and bowels and is expelled with the faeces. In this case, the magnetic balls were stuck together to the bowel wall causing necrosis (dead body tissue). The magnets had caused fistulas in the bowel and there was perforation leading to serious consequences.”

Baby wasn’t healing well after first surgery

Dr Salowm continued: “Even after the first surgery, the child was suffering from Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC). This happens when the infection reaches the blood stream in extreme stages of septic shock. Within a gap of two weeks, we conducted three surgeries. The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) team was very determined to provide the child with optimum care and we infused her with blood and fresh platelets to trigger healing. Eventually, her condition stabilised.”

Child back on track

The parents, relieved and delighted to have their baby back in good health, expressed their gratitude. Yasin, the father of baby Salma, said: “Those lentil-sized magnets were part of a box of magnets we had purchased long ago for our 11-year-old elder daughter Maria. She used those to create necklaces and rings. As parents of three children — including son Lait, 7 — we have always been very diligent. I have no idea how Salma got hold of these beads. However, we are grateful to the team of doctors who handled her case at Medcare Women and Children Hospital.”

Yasin particularly had a message for other parents: “My advise to all parents is to be extra vigilant with small children and discard all such items that have the potential to endanger your child’s life.”

Foreign body ingestion alert

Both Dr Salowm and Dr Tarsha have cautioned parents to be very vigilant about dangerous objects lying around their infants. “Infants and toddlers somehow find their way to lay their hands on hazardous items. It is best not to buy battery-operated toys or those with small bite-sized parts, especially metallic parts, that can be potentially life-threatening,” the doctors said.

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Tips for parents:

• Completely avoid getting toys with metallic or sharp parts and those with small parts that are smaller than the size of one fist of an infant and can find its way into the mouth of the baby.

• Make sure the child’s room is free of any unwanted sharp pieces or toys or small parts of a puzzle that could fall to the ground.

• Sterilise all toys, keep track of them, reject any item with loose parts. Even in case of a stuffed toy, discard it if a button or an ear or eye is loose.

• Sit with your child when he or she plays and keep an eye on what the baby is playing with.

• Check all toys before you put them away once the baby concludes playing with them. In case you see anything missing, be extra vigilant to check if your baby is choking or gagging on it.

• Check your baby’s stool for any abnormal toy part being expelled.

• Watch the child for a few days and check for fever, indigestion, nausea.

• If you suspect that your toddler may have ingested any piece of a toy, seek medical help immediately.