Sabrina’s daughter Taylor-Rose swallowed a button battery when she was aged one, and was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for specialist surgery to remove it. She was in an induced coma in intensive care at GOSH for nine days, a worrying time for Sabrina and her partner Jason, Taylor-Rose’s dad. Taylor-Rose since needed surgery to stretch out her oesophagus where the battery was lodged.
This procedure featured in an episode of ITV’s Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes, and this was the culmination of months of visits to doctors, A&E and GOSH, as her mum Sabrina explains:
From the moment she started having symptoms, I knew something wasn’t right. She sounded like she had a frog in her throat, constantly clearing it, and she wouldn’t eat any solid foods. I took her to our local doctors, and to A&E as I was so worried. All the symptoms were presenting as though she had some kind of infection, so we were prescribed antibiotics, and advised to give her Calpol.”
An x-ray confirming the button battery
Taylor-Rose’s symptoms didn’t clear up, and it was after an emergency referral by her GP to a local hospital, that she had an x-ray.
Sabrina remembers: “At that stage I still didn’t think it was anything like what it turned out to be. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t think it would be something so serious. I thought perhaps it was an underdeveloped oesophagus or a problem with her bowels because she wasn’t taking solids. I didn’t expect it to be a battery.
“As soon as they got the x-ray it was right there, as plain as day, and they said ‘it’s definitely a battery’. The doctor said she was going to refer us to Great Ormond Street straight away, and that’s when I realised, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really serious.’
Arriving at GOSH for surgery
Sabrina, Jason and Taylor-Rose got to GOSH, where they were met by the clinical team who explained the plan for Taylor-Rose’s care. Sabrina explains: “The surgical team wanted to try and extract the battery out through her mouth, as it’s less invasive. But the battery was lodged so tightly, so they explained to me and her dad that they’d need to do a follow up procedure to make an incision in her neck to try and take it out that way. They put her in an induced coma ready for surgery first thing the following day.
“Because it was so lodged in, they asked me whether it could have been there for a long time. They told me the kinds of symptoms she might have shown, and it was everything that I’d been worrying about. We realised she’d swallowed the battery on the very day I’d first taken her to A&E, as soon as the symptoms had developed. It had been stuck in her throat for weeks.”
Taylor-Rose underwent the second operation which was a success, and her surgeon managed to remove the button battery. She spent eight days recovering in intensive care, as Sabrina recalls:
It was so hard for me and her dad Jason to see her like that. Thankfully we had an amazing support network of family and friends, the hospital staff were brilliant, and we also had a room in the family accommodation near the hospital so we were never far away from Taylor-Rose.
“The moment that really sticks in my mind is the day after Taylor-Rose was brought around from her induced coma. Her sister Briana-Marie came to see her on the ward, and Taylor-Rose just sparked up as soon as her sister walked through the door. When I see the smile on Taylor-Roses face in the photos we took of them together in hospital, it’s unbelievable to compare the difference in her over just a 24 hour period.”
Raising awareness of the dangers of button batteries
Taylor-Rose is recovering well from her surgeries, and Sabrina’s passionate about sharing their experiences to warn other parents of the dangers of button batteries as she explains: “I was always well aware that children liked to put things in their mouths, and I was extremely careful when they were playing with things like toys, which have to adhere to strict regulations regarding securing button batteries. But there aren’t the same kinds of regulations on securing button batteries in other objects like remote controls when really both things are just as accessible to a toddler. So although I was nervous about being filmed, once I’d decided to go ahead, it was really worth it to me, if I can help spread that message to other families.”
Consultant Neonatal and Paediatric Surgeon Simon Blackburn was involved in the care of Taylor-Rose, as he explains: “Taylor-Rose is a lovely little girl who is a pleasure to look after. It’s been great getting to know her and her family and being alongside them during what was a really tough time.
“Along with many girls and boys her age Taylor-Rose is naturally inquisitive and will investigate the world by putting things in her mouth now and then. I am keen that her story will help families understand the dangers presented by button batteries so they can keep their children safe from the harm that they can do.”