Kidsafe Victoria and Bella’s Footprints Foundation have launched a button battery billboard campaign in Torquay, with a warning about the deadly common household item. The organisations are urging local parents and carers to be button battery aware and check items such as cards and presents they are buying this year, in a bid to reduce the number of serious and life threatening injuries.
The call comes on what would have been the eve of Isabella Rees’ eighth birthday. At 14-months-old, Isabella passed away after ingesting a button battery in 2015. She is one of three Australian children who have died due to a button battery related injury since 2013. Every week in Australia, an alarming 20 children present to hospital emergency departments with button battery related injuries.
Melanie Courtney, CEO of Kidsafe Victoria, highlighted the dangers that button batteries pose to children and the lifesaving messages the campaign will provide to local residents and tourists over the holiday period.
“If swallowed, a button battery can become stuck in a child’s throat where saliva immediately triggers an electrical current. This causes a chemical reaction that can burn through the oesophagus in as little as two hours, resulting in severe life-threatening injuries and in some cases death. Even a flat battery can cause internal damage”, said Ms Courtney.
“The high traffic location of the billboard in Torquay will ensure that vital messages are provided to thousands of local families and tourists at a time of year when many will be buying cards and presents that may contain button batteries.”
Isabella’s mum, Allison Rees, started Bella’s Footprints Foundation only two months after Isabella died. Now almost seven years on, Allison has still not come to terms with the circumstances surrounding Isabella’s death, and nor have her two surviving children – Lochlan and Charlotte.
She is urging parents and carers to be aware of the dangers that button batteries can pose so that they don’t have to endure the pain and suffering her family has.
“I remember I was at work when I received a phone call saying that Isabella had been rushed to hospital. She had been crying hysterically, started vomiting, and then collapsed”, Allison recalled.
It appeared Isabella had a virus and was sent home. On her fourth visit to the emergency room, an X-ray discovered that she had ingested a button battery. But Isabella’s little body had already been damaged beyond repair and she passed away later that day.
“It’s too late for Isabella, but it’s not too late for everyone else’s children. Know what is inside the product you are buying. Know how it is powered. It is our hope that no other family ever has to endure the pain and suffering of losing a precious child in such a horrific way”, said Allison.
Button batteries are found in many common household items including remote controls, calculators, bathroom or kitchen scales, car keys, toys, watches, talking books, musical cards, flashing novelty items, hearing aids and flameless candles.
Children under five years of age are at greatest risk as they are naturally curious and explore the world by placing objects in their mouths. They are often too young to be able to say what they have ingested and the symptoms can be similar to those of many other common childhood illnesses.
Donations to assist Kidsafe Victoria and Bella’s Footprints in their efforts to save children’s lives can be made by visiting https://www.givenow.com.au/crowdraiser/public/bellasfootprintsbuttonbatterycampaign.
Button battery safety tips
What to do if you suspect your child has ingested a button battery
If you think a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, urgent action is needed. Don’t wait for them to show symptoms:
Background on Isabella Rees Button Battery Fatality
In February 2015, 14-month-old Isabella tragically died due to injuries caused by ingesting a button battery. She was the second Australian child to die after swallowing a lithium, or “button” battery.
In January of 2015 Allison received a phone call saying that her daughter, Isabella, had been rushed to hospital. She had been crying hysterically, started vomiting, and then collapsed. It appeared Isabella had a virus and was sent home.
She presented to hospital several more times, and two weeks later on the 4th February – for the fourth time – Isabella was rushed to the emergency room after Allison was woken early that morning to the sound of Isabella coughing and crying out “mum”.
Allison re-counts: “at 5am I woke to the sound of Isabella coughing and crying out ‘mum’. This was unusual as Isabella 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 Isabella’s little body was damaged beyond repair from a button battery she had ingested and she arrested one final time.
Even to this day, Allison has not completely come to terms with the circumstances surrounding Isabella’s death, and nor have her two surviving children – Lochlan and Charlotte.
Read more about Isabella’s story here: https://www.kidsafevic.com.au/life-without-bella/
Background on Bella’s Footprints Foundation and Kidsafe Victoria Collaboration
Bella’s Footprints and Kidsafe Victoria have collaborated in 2021 to expand the reach of button battery safety awareness messages to more Victorian families.
Donations can be made to support the Button Battery Billboards here: https://www.givenow.com.au/crowdraiser/public/bellasfootprintsbuttonbatterycampaign
Allison Rees started Bella’s Footprints Foundation only two months after Isabella died. She came across a poem that resonated – ‘Her tiny hands stole our hearts, and her little feet ran away with them.’
“And Isabella 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 Isabella’s story, people are changed forever. Isabella leaves her footprints on their life making them aware of the dangers of button batteries. Hence the name ‘Bella’s Footprints,” said Allison Rees.
In sharing Isabella’s story, Allison aims to raise awareness of the dangers of button batteries and 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.
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