Grahic content warning

Devon Hacche's mother may never hear her son speak or see him breathe unassisted after the 8-month-old Tauranga boy swallowed a button battery, severely burning the inside of his throat.

The infant has been in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship Hospital in Auckland since December 19, four days after he swallowed the lithium-ion button battery.

His mother, Amanda Hacche, said in an online written account of the horrific ordeal that there was no real sign anything was wrong with her youngest son except a runny nose, mild wheezing and slightly grumpy temperament, which was diagnosed by a doctor as bronchiolitis, a viral respiratory infection, on December 17.

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Two days earlier Ms Hacche had gone on her first out-of-town work trip since Devon's birth and he was playing with his sister, Mikayla, 5, when he suddenly became "extremely distressed and inconsolable".

He settled, and his carers thought nothing of it. "This was put down to being over-tired. I got home from Auckland at 10.30pm and he was asleep."

However, Devon's symptoms worsened and Ms Hacche took Devon to Tauranga Hospital the next day where an X-ray revealed the battery lodged in his oesophagus.

"It turns out this is one of the most damaging and dangerous things that my beautiful boy could have ever ingested as they react with the saliva/gastric fluids and cause an electro-chemical reaction, which causes deep and extremely fast corrosion burns into soft human tissue," she said.

The battery was removed that day, and Devon was airlifted to Starship where he and Ms Hacche arrived at 4.30am.

The swallowed battery caused severe burns, which damaged the nerves that control Devon's vocal chords.
The swallowed battery caused severe burns, which damaged the nerves that control Devon's vocal chords.

Further tests revealed the battery caused severe and significant burns 10cm down his oesophagus that not only left a 5cm hole but also burnt through into his trachea, leaving a 2cm hole there and severely damaging the nerves that control his vocal chords.

"It does not get much worse than this," said Ms Hacche.

In the past six weeks, Devon has undergone at least five surgeries to remove and repair the burnt tissue, including one harrowing eight-hour operation where his heart and lungs were stopped and he was kept alive by a cardiac bypass machine.

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"Devon may never breathe independently again and he will remain without a voice - he can not make sound without vocal cord function," she said.

Early prognosis suggested there was still at least eight months in hospital ahead for Devon followed by three years of further treatment.

Ms Hacche, a self-employed human resource director, has been at his bedside in Starship since, and a Givealittle page for the youngster and family has been set up to help cover on-going medical care. -To donate, visit: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/devonbaby
Battery swallowing in New Zealand

- Lithium-ion, or "button" batteries are small disc-shaped batteries found in many household objects.
- Easy for children to swallow or insert in their ear/nose.
- Saliva triggers an electrical current causing severe burns and tissue damage within two hours.
- Can cause serious injury or death.
- 20 children taken to Starship each year after swallowing "button" batteries.
- 90 button battery-related calls are dealt with by the National Poison Centre each year.
How to keep safe:
- Search your home and any place your child goes for gadgets that may contain button batteries.
- Secure the battery devices out of sight and reach of children.
- Keep loose batteries locked away.
- Share this information with friends and family.
- If a battery is ingested, call 111 or go to an A&E immediately.

- thebatterycontrolled.co.nz