Monday nights are generally father-son nights at the Fat Daddy abode. Hot Mama and Things 1 and 2 have a late night at the dance studio so it’s just me and my little guy.
Mondays also allow me to slack off a bit on my role as Cook de Cuisine. Some nights it’s brinner, particularly cheesy eggs and pancakes. Some nights it’s fancy grilled cheese sandwiches with scratch made tomato soup. Sometimes it’s leftovers. One recent Monday Thing 3 had leftover spaghetti. He’s really easy to cook for and is a bit like the Mikey of my youth – he’ll eat anything.
After dinner Thing 3 came to my room with a look of terror on his homemade, tomato-basil spaghetti sauce stained face. “It’s in my tummy,” he said with a groan of despair. After several attempts to get him to clarify what was wrong all I could get from him was “it’s in my tummy.”
Finally he said it was “the thing that lights up.” After some more coaxing he told me it came from my parents’ house and it had a button. I called my mom to try to see if she had any idea what he could be describing. Finally I figured out it was a small laser pointer that Thing 2 brought home from her house.
Immediately I began evaluating the logistics of whether he could actually swallow a laser pointer and his almost four-year-old digestive tract’s ability to shit out said laser pointer. As I recalled, the pointer was a small, metal, bullet-shaped, cat-maddening device. I decided it was plausible he swallowed it but unlikely to make that sharp left turn from the pyloric sphincter to the duodenum.
Thing 3 is a sharp kid who does some dumb things so he could tell by my telephone conversation with my mom that a visit to the ER was in his immediate future and he has been there enough to know he was not interested in the trip.
He started crying and the only words he kept repeating were “I don’t wanna go to the osspital.” He worked himself into such a frenzy he began to cough and then puke. Suddenly I had a crying kid spewing regurgitated spaghetti all over my bedroom carpet.
I’m the father of three children and I have seen a lot so I was unfazed at this occurrence. My first thought was to tell him to go to the bathroom. My second thought was to finger through the warm, slimy, burgundy barf. No laser pointer.
Next I went to check on my patient and found him standing over the toilet with slobber stringing from his chin. First thought, wipe off his face. Second thought, check the bowl. On my knees from cleaning his worried face I peered over the rim of the toilet to inspect his work. I learned that at some point in the evening he had a bowel movement and did not wipe, nor did he flush. I decided I would rather pay the ER copay than do any further investigation.
As we reached the hospital parking lot a mere 1,300 feet from our driveway I gathered some additional intel and finally thought I knew what happened. A Google image search and a photo lineup with Thing 3 confirmed my suspicion. He swallowed the battery from the laser pointer.
It was just a tiny battery, no bigger than a penny. I’ve heard of kids crapping nickels successfully. I’ve seen bigger things come out of my Labrador. Hell, even Hot Mama voluntarily swallowed a camera capsule and shot a little documentary that the doctor said was a little slow at times but ultimately a successful production. But that’s a story for another time.
We breezed through the check-in process since all of our information was still current from other recent trips. If only they had a punch card or frequent flyer program. “Congratulations, with this visit you have earned a free colonoscopy.” We had the waiting room all to ourselves.
Then I made the mistake of Googling “child swallowed battery” and, well, you know how the media likes to report the negative and blow things out of proportion? Did I find any happy stories about Suzy eating a Duracell and then happily waving bye-bye to it later as it went to its watery grave like a pet store goldfish 12-24 hours after its arrival? Nope.
Instead I saw story after story of children killed by battery ingestions. Obviously they can obstruct the airway but Thing 3 was breathing fine. Apparently the human esophagus is a tremendous conductor of electrical current when there is a battery lodged in it and the battery can start to burn a hole. Sometimes they get stuck in the intestines. “Good call coming to the ER, I am a really good parent,“ I thought.
The nurse called his name to which he replied, “how you know my name?” with an impressive blend of wonderment and contempt. I explained to him that literacy is a requirement to pass the NCLEX and she read his name from the chart. On a side note, I don’t know why he would ever wonder how someone knows his name as it is often the first thing he discloses to any and every stranger he meets, regardless of whether they have candy and a cool van.
We met the doctor, we met the X-ray technician, we met the family in the exam room next to ours. He had all kinds of questions about the red crosshairs shining down on his chest in the X-ray room where we obtained photographic confirmation that the battery was in his stomach and not burning a hole through his esophagus.
Surgical removal was an option, and we had already met our health insurance deductible for the year, but the discharge paperwork directed a more conservative approach. Watch for signs of distress and watch for expulsion.
By this time Hot Mama and the elder Things were home and anxious for an update. We worked out how we could collect and inspect the samples. Then came a phone call to the nice woman who watches our little blessing (who I shall hereafter call “Nanny McG”) to make sure she was agreeable with our plan. She unenthusiastically accepted. Hot Mama said she would go get a “nuns cap.” I thought given its function the term seemed sacrilegious. Whenever Junior finished his demonstration of his well-established potty training we would get a call and pick up the package for inspection.
Tuesday morning Hot Mama dropped off the boy, the bowl, and the baggies at daycare. Before they left I suggested a hearty breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats and black coffee but there was no time. All day we waited but the call never came. Later that evening he produced a sample and I elected to let Hot Mama put her nursing degree to good use. After a thorough thrice-over we learned the condition persisted.
On Wednesday around lunch time my wife stopped by with a blue plastic baggie containing our son’s latest accomplishment. He got started before they remembered to put the collection plate under him so Nanncy McG had to fish out some of it with a slotted spoon, which she immediately threw away. Hot Mama confirmed through manual palpation (squishing it between her fingers) that the battery was not present in the bag.
Per the doctor’s orders, Hot Mama took Thing 3 to see the X-ray tech for “re-takes” and we were given the all clear. My theory is he stealthily snuck a deuce on Tuesday morning at daycare and his battery elimination went undetected.
Of course we were thankful he was okay. We had a discussion with our son about refraining from placing foreign objects in his mouth and he promised he would never do it again. He broke that promise soon thereafter.
Thursday morning Hot Mama delivered our son to daycare without the need for any medical equipment in his backpack. Nanny McG was relieved and appreciated the new slotted spoon.