Five-year-old Emmett Rauch of Peoria, Arizona, enjoys eating pizza, wrestling with his older brothers, bouncing on the trampoline, and playing on the swing set. He recently had his first-ever soccer practice.
But when he speaks, his words are raspy and robotic. When he eats, consuming even a single slice of pizza is a challenge.
In 2010, Emmett swallowed a “button battery” – a nickel-sized, lithium battery that came from the family’s DVD remote control. The event at first went unnoticed; Emmett’s mom, Karla Rauch, didn’t notice any signs of him choking, according to Today. Then, a few days later, he coughed up blood.
“They took an X-ray and when the radiologist came out, he said it was a button battery. He could even read the battery’s serial number. Emmett was rushed by ambulance to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I remember running as I signed the consent form.”
The “button battery” that Emmett had swallowed had burned a hole in his esophagus, and had narrowly missed his aorta; doctors described his wound as if a “firecracker had gone off.” Doctors weren’t even sure he’d live.
For the next eight months, Emmett lived in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Several times, his parents prepared themselves to say goodbye to their little boy, as he tried valiantly to draw air into his fragile lungs.
But Emmett wouldn’t give up.
“It was very humbling to watch him, because he has this fighting spirit. He stole the hearts of all the nurses and doctors with his beautiful smile.”
Eventually, Emmett wound up at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for an extremely rare surgery: doctors would reconstruct his esophagus using part of his colon, according to The Arizona Republic.
Five years and 65 surgeries after he first swallowed the battery, Emmett is now, finally, breathing and eating on his own. His tracheostomy tube was removed just a few days ago, and for the first time in his life, Emmett will go about his daily activities without a tube sticking out of his neck.
“The first thing he really wants to do is play soccer. We got the clearance from his doctor and he starts with the city league next month.”
Emmett’s story inspired his mom, who describes herself as “quiet and reserved person,” and dad to become activists. The Emmett’s Fight Foundation teaches parents about the dangers posed by small batteries.
“I am heartbroken that Emmett has had to suffer, and I would have taken his place in a heartbeat. But I am grateful that there is some sort of silver lining and that is helping to save other children from suffering and possibly losing their lives!”
You can read Karla’s tips for battery safety here, so you can do your part to keep from having Emmett’s plight play out in your own family.