When Texas mom Trista Hamsmith noticed that a button battery was missing from a device and her daughter had a bad cough, her life changed forever.

Trista’s 17-month old daughter Reese had been coughing and not feeling well for a few days. The doctor diagnosed her with croup (an inflammation of the trachea and the larynx). Croup causes children to have a bark-like cough and difficulties breathing.

However, after returning from the doctor that day, she noticed that a button battery was missing.

“A quick Google search had us rushing to the emergency room,” Trista shares on her Facebook page.

An x-ray confirmed what she feared; the button battery was stuck in Reese’s throat.

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Reese had emergency surgery, and after a few days, she was sent home on a liquid diet and would return to the hospital in four to six weeks.

Button battery kills 17-month-old toddler
Reese’s x-ray showed that the button battery was lodged in her throat. Image: Facebook @PrayForReeseHamsmith)


This is when their nightmare began

CT scans showed that the battery had burned a hole in her oesophagus and trachea. The hole created a passageway that led air into her stomach and food and water into her lungs. The passage is known as a fistula.

What caused the hole?

According to Paediatric surgeon Dr. Jesse Vrecenack “one of the scariest calls you can get from an emergency department as a surgeon is that a child has ingested a button battery.”

The chemical composition in the battery combined with body tissue causes a reaction.

According to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, button batteries can cause damage in three ways:

  • It can create an electrical current
  • Puts pressure on sensitive tissue
  • Could leak dangerous chemicals

The reaction causes a burn that creates damage wherever it is lodged. In Reese’s case, the burn was incurred in her throat and resulted in a fistula.

Reese’s fistula could not be repaired immediately, as the measures were too risky. Tragically, before surgery could happen, Reese went into respiratory code and was subsequently moved to a more technically advanced hospital.

On 1 December 2020, a team of experts at The Texas Children’s Hospitals would perform an all-day surgery to repair the fistula. A week after the operation, Reese coded again as she was removed from the ventilator.

“Starting compressions” is still burned in Trista’s memories as she walked back to her daughter’s room. She had walked away for a few minutes.

“I had never prayed that hard in my life.”

Reese came back, and the doctors tried to remove her from the ventilator again on 14 December. This attempt was also not successful and they decided to re-intubate her again and perform a tracheostomy. The doctors created an incision in the windpipe to help her breathe. “After two unsuccessful attempts by Reese to breathe without intubation, I was welcoming it,” shares her mom.

We have a trach. Before she went back to the OR Blake happened to call and Reese was pulling her usual fight on the…

Posted by Pray for Reese Hamsmith on Wednesday, December 16, 2020


On 16 December at 6:30 pm, Reese had a tracheostomy, and the following morning at 2:30 am, her room was full of concerned doctors. “Reese’s numbers didn’t look right.” She had another operation to insert a different trach, and at 8:30 am, her numbers were still not quite right.

When the doctors started a procedure to check what the issue was, Reese coded. “The last number I saw was six,” said Trista. By the time I lifted my head, the number was zero, and my daughter was gone.


Button battery kills 17-month-old toddler
Reese Hammsmith needed multiple surgeries to repair her burned throat. (Image: Facebook @PrayForReeseHamsmith)


Trista has been sharing her family’s ordeal and loss since December 2020 in the hopes of raising awareness about the dangers of button batteries.


A recent story of a baby named Everlee has also gone public, but fortunately, the battery she swallowed did not create a life-threatening burn. She is currently recovering in a hospital with her overjoyed mother.



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