Devon Hacche's mother may never hear her son speak or see him breathe unassisted after the 8-month-old from Tauranga swallowed a button battery, severely burning the inside of his throat.
The infant has been in the paediatric intensive care unit at Starship hospital in Auckland since December 19, four days after he ate 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.
Two days earlier, Ms Hacche had gone on her first out-of-town trip for work since Devon's birth and he was playing with his sister, Mikayla, 5, and a cousin when he suddenly and inexplicably 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. He looked perfect. Little did I know what was going on inside him."
However, after the doctor's diagnosis 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. Further tests revealed the battery caused severe and significant burns 10cm down his oesophagus that left a 5cm hole and burned through into his trachea, leaving a 2cm hole and severely damaging the nerves that control his vocal cords.
"It doesn't 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 burned tissue, including one harrowing eight hour operation where his heart and lungs were stopped and he was kept alive by a cardiac bypass machine.
"Devon may never breathe independently again and he will remain without a voice - he can't make sound without vocal cord function," she said.
The ordeal had left her "numb" and 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 ongoing medical care and costs of being away from work, and care for Devon's siblings Mikayla, and Brayden, 15. Last night it had raised nearly $7400 from 138 donors.
According to The Battery Controlled, a multi-agency group formed to address the growing number of children ingesting button batteries, at least 20 New Zealand children were taken to Starship each year after swallowing the lethal items.
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.
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