15-month old girl struggles to recover after swallowing button battery

Makayla Patterson in the hospital (Courtesy Felicia Patterson)

Makayla Patterson's symptoms started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

"She just wasn't being herself," said her mom, Felicia Patterson. "She didn't want to eat. Makayla's normally a really big table eater so that was kind of odd."

Patterson consulted a doctor about her child's flu-like symptoms, and was told it was probably a virus and that she should let it take its course. Over the course of the next several days, Makayla's symptoms slowly got worse. By Monday, she was back in front of a doctor who suggested her illness was an upper respiratory infection. Her mother was given an inhaler and they were sent home again.

The following day, Patterson noticed her daughter choking as she tried to eat some soup. While the child was breathing relatively normally, Patterson heard wheezing sounds and noticed her lips turning a purplish color. She immediately took Makayla the ER at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center ER, where X-rays were taken.

"We're just waiting there for quite some time and he comes back with a very shocked look on his face," said Patterson. "He's like, 'Well, this isn't what I was expecting to find.' He turns the monitor on and all you can see is what looks like a quarter stuck in her throat."

Patterson was then referred to Randall Children's Hospital. Meanwhile, a Randall doctor that had seen Makayla's X-ray, called the doctor at Legacy Mount Hood to share his urgent opinion - the item in Makayla's throat was likely not a quarter.

"He said, 'Well the physician that's going to be treating her at the other hospital thinks it's a button battery so she has to go now,'" recalled Patterson.

Makayla was then rushed to Randall and underwent surgery. She's had several surgeries since then and faces a long and uncertain recovery.

"They've diagnosed her with a grade three esophageal injury," said Patterson. "It's my understanding that it goes all the way around and about two thirds down her esophagus. It's a chemical burn."

Makayla is one of thousands of children that swallow button batteries every year. Her injury is more unique in the fact the battery became lodged in her throat without blocking her airway. Patterson and her family still isn't sure where she came across the battery. They say they've racked their brains and searched their home but haven't found the source.

"That's the part we're struggling with the most," said Patterson. "As a parent, you want to protect your kid from everything. We put the plugs in the outlets, we have the gates at the stairs, we have the knobs on the stove."

Patterson is now on a mission to educate parents about the dangers of button batteries and the symptoms of an injury like Makayla's.

"I want them to be aware of the signs," she said. "It very much does mimic an upper respiratory infection."

Although Makayla has rounded a corner, her future health remains concerning.

"They keep reminding me that this is going to a lifelong injury," said Patterson. "There are still a lot of unknowns and I have a lot of unanswered questions. Every day we get through kind of presents a new challenge or a new victory so it's kind of taking it day by day."

A GoFundMe Page has been set up for Makayla and her family.

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