Doctors at Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital removed 32 magnetic balls from a baby’s stomach, saving his life.
Earlier this week, a mother brought her one-and-a-half-year-old son into the emergency room due to a high fever and loss of appetite. The staff began examining the child, including screening him for the novel coronavirus. An X-ray of the lungs revealed an unexpected result: the child had lots of magnetic beads in his stomach.
“They tried to calm me down and tell me that they had seen this before,” the child’s mother recalled. “But they said the situation had to be dealt with immediately.”
Dr. Ze'ev Davidovic, a senior physician at Hadassah Pediatric Hospital, was called to the scene to perform an urgent endoscopic procedure and remove the magnets. Every moment they stayed inside him, the doctor said, endangered the boy’s life.
"This is not the first time we’ve seen babies, toddlers and even older children who have swallowed magnetic beads, but we’ve never encountered such a quantity of balls inside such a little boy’s body,” Davidovic said. "The baby was walking around with a ticking bomb in his stomach."
He explained that magnets can make a hole in the intestine and cause bleeding, which can get complicated.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission explains on its website that magnets can kill children if two or more are swallowed.
“If two or more magnets or magnetic components or a magnet and another metal object (such as a small metal ball) are swallowed separately, they can attract one another through intestinal walls,” the CPSC explained. “This traps the magnets in place and can cause holes, perforations, twisting and/or blockage of the intestines, infection, blood poisoning (sepsis) and death. When multiple magnets are ingested, surgery is required to remove the magnets and sometimes sections of the intestines need to be removed.”
Davidovic said he used forceps to carefully extract each magnet so as not to damage the intestine. He said he took X-rays throughout the procedure to ensure that no magnets were left behind.
“To our amazement, we took 32 magnet balls out of the boy’s stomach,” the doctor said. “It’s just a miracle that he didn't get sick until that moment. It was only a matter of time – on the edge.”
The mother said that in hindsight, she remembered that she had seen her toddler playing in his big brother’s room and he had put the magnets in his mouth. She intervened and removed five from his mouth and thought that was the end of the story. She said she never could have imagined what came next.
“The feeling was horrible,” she said. “Fortunately, the staff was lovely, and everything was handled calmly and without judgement.”