A three-year-old girl recently swallowed 37 “Buckyball” magnets and survived after surgery at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, OR, to remove them.
Three-year-old Payton Bushnell had been feeling ill with symptoms that resembled the flu. However, after she continued to feel lethargic and unwilling to eat after what her mother considered a reasonable time for her to begin recovering, the Bushnells took their daughter to have her examined. It was then that doctors took an X-ray and found the Buckyballs clustered in her tummy, looking very much like a piece of jewelry, possibly a bracelet.
The government has warned about risks of high-powered magnets in the past. In 2006, a report issued by the government revealed that since 2003, at least one child in the U.S. had died and at least 19 had needed surgery due to swallowing magnets used in toys. This finding ultimately resulted in a recall, issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, of Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets. And, although Buckyballs are clearly marketed for adult use, the result can be the same if swallowed, i.e. the magnets can link together in the child’s digestive tract, and can squeeze, twist, even perforate the child’s intestine. Buckyballs issued the following statement on their website after the incident was revealed earlier this week:
“Buckyballs was saddened to learn that a 3-year old girl in Oregon had swallowed high-powered magnets but we are relieved that she is expected to make a full recovery. This unfortunate incident underscores the fact that Buckyballs and Buckycubes are for adults. They are not toys and are not intended for children. We urge all consumers to read and comply with the warnings we place on all our products, on our website and in stores. Please keep these products out of the hands and reach of all children.”
Buckyballs are made of “rare earth” magnets, similar to the ones found in the 2006 government report. However, unlike the magnets targeted in the 2006 report, Buckyballs are not toys and are not intended for use by children. They are marketed as “The World’s Best-selling Desktoy,” according to the Buckyballs website, which also stresses, repeatedly, that the magnets are to be kept away from children, even including a video public service announcement about the importance of keeping the product out of the reach of children.
This morning, Aaron and Kelli Bushnell appeared on NBCs Today Show with their now-healthy daughter. Aaron admitted that he felt extremely guilty about the Buckyballs, which had been left on the family refrigerator, he said, after he brought them home from work.
“I do,” Aaron said when asked if he felt guilty. How long? “Probably the rest of my life. As long as I can see the scar.”
“Don’t let your guard down with your kid,” Kelli advised parents, saying that, even though they are overprotective parents of their first child, this incident still happened. “Don’t underestimate anything that they can do.”