Choking Hazards: Little, Round Objects

by Krystal Hamblin

Our little Josie, at two years old, decided that she wanted to be a piggy bank, which gave us quite a scare!

Be Aware of Choking Hazards!

We were all getting ready as normal and Josie was watching some early morning cartoons. We didn't see anything around her that she could get into and I know I didn't see any coins laying around! I guess what we didn't see, Josie made sure that she did!

My back had not been turned but for a second and I heard her choking! She was gagging and began to throw up. I rushed her into the bathroom and sat on the side of the tub. She continued to throw up but only mucus was coming out. I didn't know for sure that she had swallowed something, but from the way she was struggling I knew there was something massively wrong. Her eyes started going back in her head and she was going limp. I immediately said, "Let's go! We're going to the hospital now!"

I had tried performing the Heimlich Maneuver but nothing would come out other than the mucus she was throwing up. She hadn't had anything to eat yet so this was very hard on her.

At the hospital

Once we got to the hospital she had become very lethargic. When checking her in she continued to spit up liquid. We were getting very worried. Once we got into the room she began to perk up a bit. Her daddy asked her, "Did you eat money?" Her reply was, "Uh-Huh" as she nodded her little head yes. We asked her, "Josie, what hurts?" and she pointed to the top of her throat.

We knew to ask this because we went through something similar with her big sister, Elisabeth, when she was one-year-old. The difference with her situation though was that we didn't know she had swallowed anything until several months after it happened!

She had been very sick and the pediatrician kept saying that her sickness was viral. Finally I demanded a chest x-ray be done on Elisabeth because I thought she had severe pneumonia. Much to our surprise they found a penny lodged in her esophagus! The tissue had already started growing around it and the copper from the penny was poisoning her system. The hospital we were at rushed us to a larger hospital in Roanoke, VA and called in a specialist.

She was put to sleep and an endoscopic procedure was done to remove the penny up through the esophagus and out of her mouth. She was admitted to the hospital for several days and given IV antibiotics and fluids. The whole experience was terrifying!

Because of already going through one child who thought she was a piggy bank I just had a gut feeling that Josie had swallowed something as well. We requested an x-ray from the start, and thank God the doctor on call respected our wishes!

Sure enough, there was something round lodged in Josie's esophagus. Something perfectly round, just like a coin! I was mortified! We are so careful to make sure choking hazards are put up, especially coins; Other wise known as little round monsters!

The doctor told us that they were sending us to The Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, FL so the repeat of Elisabeth's ordeal in Virginia continued, even here! The only relief I was experiencing at the time was that we had caught her right when it happened and not months later. She was reacting differently as well; we could see that she was in a lot of discomfort.

After being transported to The Children's Hospital the gentlemen that took Josie and me down in the ambulance made sure we got right into a room. It was like having two body guards the way they were pushing for us to be seen at once. Josie had won their hearts already.

Once we were through the circus like entry exam we were taken to radiology. Josie was getting weaker and weaker by the minute and her spells of struggling and spitting up had me more than concerned. They couldn't get that evil coin out of her soon enough! I wanted that monster in my hand, never to be retrieved by another child again! It would go in the same spot that I've kept Elisabeth's copper monster...HIDDEN where only we, the parents, know where it is!

I was getting pretty upset because I was scared that Josie was dehydrating. We were told that they were going to start an IV but they never followed through. Lucky for them the doctor that was going to do the procedure arrived and was ready to take her back. They explained that they were going to try doing the coin extraction without putting her to sleep. No sedatives or anything...

Fluoroscopic balloon catheter extraction

The staff began wrapping her in a sheet, starting at her ankles and taking it around her little body all the way to her neck. She was wrapped so tight that she couldn't move if she wanted to. Normally she would have been screaming and throwing a fit, but she was too weak to care.

Once they placed her on the metal table she did start crying, it was pitiful. My heart was in a million pieces as I stepped outside the door and left her laying like that. I knew she was scared and very distressed. What they were about to do to her was going to be even worse.

In the words of the medical professionals, "The procedure is called a Fluoroscopic Balloon Catheter Extraction. Under fluoroscopic guidance, a 12F or 14F Foley catheter was inserted nasally just beyond the radiopaque foreign body and inflated to the width of the esophagus with a water-soluble contrast material. She was then placed in the prone-oblique steep Trendelenburg position.

The catheter was withdrawn with gentle and steady traction as the balloon was used to pull the opaque foreign body ahead of it. The object was removed from the mouth with the aid of forceps." The procedure itself was about ten minutes. I heard her crying and I just couldn't help but cry right along with her.

When I went back into the room she was still wrapped up in the sheet and they were cleaning up the mess. I saw the penny laying there on the table by her bed and I just cringed. I knew that it was a penny, even when they said they were sure it was a dime. No, I thought to myself, like big sister, like little sister...This was another penny ordeal! I was just relieved that the copper monster was out of my baby!

Josie was able to have something to drink so we fixed her something there in the room. She grabbed that cup faster than lightning and chugged it down like it was the best feast a gal could ever get! Slowly but surely we were discharged. We asked Josie, "Do you feel better?" and she nodded her little head yes and said, "Uh-Huh." Her daddy asked her, "Do you want to go home now?" and she answered that with an even greater nod, "Yes Da-Da, go home."

Controlling little round monsters

Take it from someone who's been there more than once, never doubt your gut feeling as a parent! Also, be sure to double check their surroundings. If you don't see something it doesn't mean that your little one won't find it!

We are adamant about keeping small objects out of reach, especially coins, but that doesn't mean things can't happen. As an added precautionary make it a point to look under furniture, in couch cushions, chairs and anything low every single day. Instead of checking couch cushions weekly when you clean take the time to check them daily.

If you have an older child in the house do not let them have free access to their piggy bank. Even if they think they have cleaned up all of the coins after playing in it, it's possible that a coin was missed. Explain to the older child that you can practice counting together when the baby is sleeping or when supervision can be at the max. The older sibling will understand if you have to put the piggy bank in a cabinet, or replace the coins with dollars, if you tell them it is to keep their little brother or sister safe.

All I can do now is be thankful that my children survived through being a human piggy bank and make sure to never take advantage of one single day!

Hug your baby and keep away the little monsters!

Krystal Hamblin is a writer and a teacher and minister of music from Southwest VA. She is also a wife and a mother of two girls and a boy, which she calls her monumental blessings in her, "Mommy Moments" column titled, "M & M's With Krystal, Mother of Three Monumental Blessings." Having a passion for music and writing, Krystal thoroughly enjoys combining the two arts. To her, life will always be a symphony unfolding one note at a time.

Copyright © Krystal Hamblin. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.