Harper-Lee Fantrope was two years old when she swallowed a button battery that she found in a remote control. Despite being rushed to hospital shortly after, she passed away later that same day.
Five weeks after Harper’s tragic death, her heartbroken mum, Stacy-Marie Niklin shares what exactly happened to her sweet little girl, urging other parents to know the dangers of button batteries.
‘Lying on the sofa covered in blood’
Like most toddlers, two-year-old Harper-Lee Fantrope loved singing, dancing and Peppa Pig. One morning her mum put on the telly for her daughter while she got ready for work.
When Stacy-Marie went to work, Harper stayed home with her older sister, Jamie-Leigh.
But two hours later, Stacy-Marie got a Facetime call from Jamie-Leigh, alerting her that something was wrong with Harper.
She turned the phone over, and Harper was lying on the sofa on her side, covered in blood. By the time I got home Harper was being put into the ambulance.”
‘Mummy, I need you’
Harper-Lee was rushed to the hospital and straight into the resuscitation unit. Doctors inserted a camera to see where the blood was coming from.
By this point, she had gone very pale, had high blood pressure, and was still vomiting blood. But she was still talking. She asked for my phone and watched more Peppa Pig on YouTube Kids.”
As Harper was wheeled into surgery, Stacy-Marie gave her a kiss and told her she loved her and would see her soon.
The last thing she ever said to me was, ‘Mummy, I need you’.”
During the surgery, doctors discovered that Harper-Lee had swallowed a button battery. The two-year-old passed away at 10.17pm on May 23. The button battery had burned through her oesophagus and a major artery.
“[The doctor] just looked at me, and I think I knew … but it didn’t really click. And then he just said ‘I’m sorry’. I can remember just letting out the loudest scream, shouting ‘No!’
It’s been five weeks since Stacy-Marie lost her youngest daughter and it’s been the hardest five weeks of her life.
The past five weeks have been absolute torture. I feel lost. I miss her so much. She was like my little shadow. Everywhere I went Harper was behind me. I couldn’t even have a bath without her jumping in, fully-clothed. She wouldn’t even sleep on her own.
Every day was just so full of laughter, full of giggles. She was such a little character, she made such a massive impact on everyone she met. She always made them cry with laughter.”
We can only imagine the pain Stacy-Marie is going through and she admits that everywhere she goes is a permanent reminder of her daughter.
Harper was one of those who, if you sat down, she’d say ‘Mummy, I want this’.
She wouldn’t let you sit for a minute.
The last five weeks, all I’ve done is sit down. I’ve never sat down so much, and I hate it.”
‘There are no warnings, nothing. They are so dangerous.’
Through the sadness of losing Harper-Lee, Stacy-Marie decided to do something about the current laws surrounding button batteries. She began to research the dangers of button batteries and was horrified to learn that deaths caused by them dated back as far as the late 1970s.
They were all children under two. So why has nothing been done?
They’re in children’s books – the ones that make the little animal noises – they’re in greetings cards. They’re even in children’s toys.
And if Harper could pull one out of a remote, another child can pul lit out of a birthday card or a children’s book. There are no warnings, nothing. They are so dangerous.”
Stacy-Marie lives in the UK where, like in Australia, there aren’t any regulations around button batteries.
In Australia alone, it is estimated there is at least one child who needs to be hospitalised a day because they have swallowed a button battery. Yet, as it stands now, there is no mandatory regulation of button batteries in Australia.
For 40 years companies have been dumping these, what I call landmines, into our homes and they’ve known they’re problematic,” Kidsafe chief executive Susan Teerds told ABC News.
‘I won’t let my baby die for nothing’
Stacy has since started a petition in the UK to change the laws regarding button batteries. She also urges other parents to be aware of just how dangerous and common button batteries are.
Just check, check, and check again. I just wish it’s what I had done. This is my focus now: to push and push and push to get something done. If not to see them banned, then to see them made more secure. I won’t let my baby die for nothing.”
Button battery deaths: Tiny batteries, Big danger
In 2013, four-year-old Summer Steer also died from swallowing a button battery. This happened again in 2005 to 14-month-old Isabella Rees. And again in July 2020 to three-year-old Brittney.
Three Australian children, gone, because of button batteries.
While there aren’t any regulations in place, the ACCC is working hard to fix this. They are currently finalising regulatory options to address the dangers of button batteries before making a final recommendation to the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar later this year.
Keeping children AWAY from button batteries
Below are some tips from the ACCC to help parents and other carers understand the dangers of button batteries and how to create a safer home environment.
Know the symptoms of button battery ingestion
- Symptoms may include gagging or choking, drooling, chest pain (grunting), coughing or noisy breathing, food refusal, black or red bowel motions, nose bleeds, spitting blood or blood-stained saliva, any unexplained vomiting, fever, abdominal pain or general discomfort.
- Children are often unable to effectively communicate that they have swallowed or inserted a button battery and may have no symptoms initially.
- If you suspect a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, you should ask for an X-Ray from a hospital emergency department to make sure.
What if your child ingests a button battery
- If they are having trouble breathing, call 000 immediately.
- If they are not having trouble breathing parents should call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26. You will be directed by staff to an emergency department that is best able to treat your child.
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Button battery advice around the house
- Keep new and used button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.
- Even old or spent button batteries can retain enough charge to cause life-threatening injuries.
- Look for products that do not use button batteries at all.
- Examine products and make sure the compartment that houses the button battery is child-resistant, such as being secured with a screw.
- Check that the product does not release the battery and it is difficult for a child to access. If the battery compartment does not close securely, stop using the product and keep it away from children.
- As soon as you have finished using a button battery, put sticky tape around both sides of the battery and dispose of immediately in an outside bin, out of reach of children, or recycle safely.
- Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries and how to keep their children safe.
Parents, we urge you to take five minutes today and check your house for button batteries. Place them far away from the kids, triple-check their toys, and talk to your kids about what to do if they find one.