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Hidden holiday danger: How one Waco girl almost lost her life

Christmas toys are right around the corner, but doctors warn there are hidden dangers that are life threatening to children.

WACO, Texas — It's hard to imagine 3-year-old Kai'Lahni Felton nearly lost her life four months ago.

Today, her smile lights up a room, but in July she couldn't stop complaining of stomach issues.

"She wouldn't eat anything, she wouldn't drink anything, so me and my mom, we knew something was wrong," Felton's mother, Avis Cauley, said.

The doctors said it was a stomach bug. Even Felton's grandmother, Dovie Coleman, thought it might have been appendicitis.

"But every time she (Felton) would role on her other side, it'd hurt in a different part of her stomach," Coleman said.

The family ended up taking Felton to the express ER. When the doctors finally took X-rays, something shiny was in the picture and it was radioactive.

Felton had swallowed a button battery.

Credit: Avis Cauley
Kai'lahni Felton swallowed the button battery in July, but her family had no idea where she found it, until they saw the x-rays.

Cauley and Coleman took Felton to the emergency room at Baylor Scott and White immediately. Right away, they told them that Felton would have to have emergency surgery.

"That was one of the hardest things to hear," Cauley said.

This surgery kept Felton in the hospital for over a week with a feeding tube and around the clock care.

Her family said that it was one of the hardest times in their life, especially since they now knew Felton could have died if they would've waited any longer.

The button battery had burned a hole in Felton's esophagus and a part of her stomach, according to doctors.

They are healed now, but Felton has to go back for check-ins every month for the next three years to make sure she's eating properly.

When the family reflects on what happened, they have no idea how Felton found the button battery. They keep a good eye on her and didn't know any button batteries were around the house.

Now, they hope this lesson is one that other families won't have to learn, especially this holiday season.

Button batteries, also known as lithium batteries, are commonly found in new toys that are battery operated. If loose, there is a risk of children accidentally swallowing them. 

According to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, there's more than 3,500 button battery ingestions by children a year in the U.S. Many of those develop into severe cases involving esophageal or airway damage, as well as deaths.

Below are some tips from the hospital on how to keep your child safe not just during the holidays, but all year-round:

  • Know where the batteries are
  • Make sure devices are tightly closed, using screws by the device or duct tape
  • Keep the batteries out of reach and secure any loose ones
  • When throwing out a battery, tape both sides of the used battery and put in a storage bag until you recycle it
  • Seek medical help immediately if you think your child swallowed a button battery
  • Keep Poison Control's number readily available

"It's not worth staying in the hospital for six days over something you can prevent if you're watching," Coleman said.

For more information on button battery safety, click here.

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