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Doctors miss swallowed battery, diagnose two-year-old with flu

Last Updated Feb 15, 2016 at 6:42 pm EDT

Katie Smith was running around SickKids hospital on Monday morning as if nothing was wrong, but only a few days prior the little girl had a lithium cell battery removed from her esophagus after it was stuck inside her for four days.

Michael Smith, her father, knew something was wrong with his two-year-old daughter when she wouldn’t eat her soup and crackers for dinner exactly a week ago.

That Monday evening, unknown to Michael, Katie had swallowed a 3.7-volt battery, commonly known as a coin battery.

“She was choking, gagging on something,” recalls Michael. “Her brother saw her start to gag, throw up and start coughing.”

Michael and his wife Christina tell CityNews that they immediately took their daughter to the emergency room at Lakeridge Oshawa and were told she may be suffering from the flu.

“The clinic doctor examined her ears, throat, checked her airways, everything was clear and no sign of infection – must be a sign of a flu,” Michael recalls.

They trusted the doctors and took her home but she continued to gag and act lethargic.

“She’s never been like this,” Christina remembers thinking. “She didn’t have any symptoms for a flu or cold.”

They decided to take her back to be checked out, but this time, they went to an Ajax walk-in clinic. There, they were also advised she had the flu. The same thing happened with their their family doctor and at the emergency room of Markham-Stouffville Hospital.

But Michael said he knew there was something stuck in his daughters throat.

A two-year-old girl is recovering after she swallowed a battery. Doctors initially misdiagnosed it as the flu. Image credit: Smith family.
A two-year-old girl is recovering after she swallowed a battery. Doctors initially misdiagnosed it as the flu. Image credit: Smith family.

When the gagging still continued, the couple took Katie to Rouge Valley Ajax-Pickering on Thursday where an x-ray was ordered.

“Ten minutes later we were out and within the half hour we were on the way to SickKids because they found something in there.”

Cristina said her heart dropped the moment she found out her daughter had swallowed a battery.

“Our immediate reaction [was] we were mad,” said Michael. “Incredibly mad.”

The contents inside of the battery did not yet leak out but the exterior of it had started to corrode, burning away at the little girl’s esophagus.

“Not having anything else to push it (the battery) through … a leaking battery could cause death,” said Michael while fighting back tears.

The battery caused an infection and the corrosion ended up burning the first layer of her esophagus.

“She’s my little girl,” said Christina.

A two-year-old girl is recovering after she swallowed a battery. Doctors initially misdiagnosed it as the flu. Image credit: Smith family.
A two-year-old girl is recovering after she swallowed a battery. Doctors initially misdiagnosed it as the flu. Image credit: Smith family.

The couple said Katie is back to normal, running around and happy-go-lucky.

“We were just really lucky that it didn’t burn a hole through her esophagus,” said Michael.

It is unclear where Katie found the battery that she swallowed. While Michael said that there are batteries in their home, they don’t leave things lying around.

They said that other parents should trust their parental judgement if they think something is wrong.

“If you think there is something wrong with your child, don’t stop,” he said. “Don’t walk out until you get an answer.”

CityNews reached out to Lakeridge Oshawa and Markham-Stouffville. Both hospitals say a patient complaint has not been filed, so they cannot comment any further. However, they are urging the Smith family to file a formal complaint, so they can investigate further.