[Pictured: Allison and Bella]
Five years and 11 months ago, Allison received a phone call saying that her 14-month-old daughter, Bella, had been rushed to hospital. She had been crying hysterically, started vomiting, and then collapsed.
It appeared Bella had a virus and was sent home.
Two weeks later on the 4th February 2015 – for the fourth time – Bella was rushed to the emergency room after Allison was woken early that morning to the sound of Bella coughing and crying out “mum”.
Allison re-counts: “at 5am I woke to the sound of Bella coughing and crying out ‘mum’. This was unusual as Bella would normally sleep for 12 hrs. I went into her room to find her and her cot completely saturated in blood. I quickly rushed her to the hospital for the 4th time.”
It was discovered that Bella’s little body was damaged beyond repair from a button battery she had ingested and she arrested one final time.
“Mum was her first word, and sadly her last word”
At this time of year, when so many of us are looking forward to enjoying the holidays and gathering with friends and family; there is a heavy cloud over Allison’s home.
“It’s tough. It’s always tough and emotional. Another year without Bella – wondering what she would look like, sound like and how beautiful it would be to see all my kids celebrating and having fun together.”
“I miss holding her, seeing her beautiful smile and hearing her voice.”
“She was so calm and caring and funny and cheeky. I would often find all sorts of toys and things thrown into the bathtub.”
“She loved music and dancing, always turning up the radio loud!”
Since Bella passed away, Christmas traditions are very different.
“A few weeks beforehand we go down and decorate the grave with Christmas decorations.”
“Christmas morning we open presents at home then the kids and I go to the cemetery to give Bella a present and spend time with her.”
Even to this day, Allison has not completely come to terms with the circumstances surrounding Bella’s death, and nor have her two surviving children – Lochlan , aged 9 and Charlotte, aged 5.
“I struggled to come to terms with Bella swallowing a button battery and me not knowing or not seeing that she had swallowed one.”
“I felt guilty for not saving her even though she went to the hospital 4 times. If I had known, then maybe I could have saved her.”
“I was also worried about people judging me as a mum, when I was the most cautious parent I know.”
“I had every safety gadget you could think of, I stored my batteries in a sealed container up above the fridge and still this happened.”
[Pictured: Lochlan and Bella]
When you are trying to find decorations for your house or a toy for your child this Christmas, you’re probably thinking about the joy they will bring, however, it’s also important to be aware of the potential hazards.
We don’t often think about what’s making that novelty Rudolph nose flash, the greeting card sing jingle bells when it’s opened or the toy make sounds when a button is pressed – in many cases, these items are powered by button batteries.
If swallowed, these coin sized batteries can get stuck in a child’s throat and burn through the oesophagus in as little as two hours, causing severe and life-threatening injuries.
For Allison and all of her friends and family, they will never look at a children’s toy the same way again.
“We don’t allow any toys or household items into our home that are powered by a button battery. Our home is button battery free since Bella died.”
“I knew batteries were dangerous, I always thought they had acid in them and knew they are not for kids to play with, but I had no idea a button battery could be lodged in the oesophagus and do the damage it does.”
“Know what is inside the product you are buying. Know how it is powered”
When it comes to toys, it’s not just button batteries that you need to be aware of. Here are some tips to help you choose toys that kids can get hours of fun and safe entertainment out of this Christmas:
…And remember, it isn’t just toys to keep an eye out for. Check any new gifts or small battery powered items around your household that contain batteries and make sure they are secured safely.
Allison started Bella’s Footprints foundation only two months after Bella died.
She came across a poem that resonated – ‘Her tiny hands stole our hearts, and her little feet ran away with them.’
“And Bella did just that! She stole our hearts, she ran away with them and in doing so she left forever lasting footprints on our lives. Every time we share Bella’s story, people are changed forever. Bella leaves her footprints on their life making them aware of the dangers of button batteries. Hence the name ‘Bella’s Footprints.”
In sharing Bella’s story, Allison aims to raise awareness of the dangers of button batteries. Together, we can bring much needed change for manufacturers and retailers alike, as well as educate mums, dads, aunties, uncles, grandparents and friends; so no other family needs to suffer the pain of losing a child to a button battery ingestion.
Thank you to Allison for so bravely sharing your journey and beautiful memories of Bella with Kidsafe Victoria.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.