Unfortunately for a mother and father in Oklahoma, their worst nightmare became reality when their two-year-old daughter was rushed to a hospital after she unexpectedly began to turn blue and threw up blood. When doctors performed an x-ray, they discovered the cause, but it was already too late.
Kent Vice was very close to his granddaughter, 2-year-old Brianna Florer. He handled caretaking duties for Brianna when she was an infant for three weeks after her parents returned to work. “She never — not one time — had a bad day,” Vice said, his voice cracking with emotion. “She was always happy and laughing. I took care of her — she was just an angel.”
Sweet, little Brianna loved Disney’s Frozen, she loved Minnie Mouse, and she really liked pretending to drive a car. She was just learning to talk, but at just 2 years old, she already had a lot of sass, her grandpa said. And, he will be the first person to tell you, Brianna had him wrapped around her finger from day one with those little blonde curls and big, brown eyes.
One day, Brianna was laughing and jumping around with her older brother and two sisters at her grandparents’ home, but things would take a bad turn for the blond-haired toddler. The very next day, Brianna would tragically pass away before her parents really even knew what hit them. “On Saturday she was fine,” maternal grandfather Kent Vice said.
It all started with a low-grade fever, which her parents Brian and Stephanie Florer didn’t think too much of at first — that is until their daughter suddenly started to turn blue and threw up blood. They immediately called an ambulance, which met them at a convenience store to check Brianna’s condition. “She threw up again,” Vice said. “It was a massive amount of blood, and they rushed her to the Grove hospital.”
The Grove physicians quickly diagnosed little Brianna’s problem, and she was transferred by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, where she was rushed into surgery. After performing an x-ray of her tiny body, doctors discovered that the young girl had ingested a shiny, silver button battery. “They operated on her for 2½ hours, but they couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Vice said. “They believed the battery ate through to her carotid artery by way of her esophagus.”
Doctors believe that Brianna had ingested the battery within six days of passing away. Normally, the battery passes through the digestive system, but if the battery lodges in the esophagus or digestive tract, it can open and release an alkaline substance that can cause corrosive or burn injuries. “One minute she is perfect, and the next minute she is dead,” Vice said. “We had no idea when she swallowed it.”
Dr. Toby Litovitz stated that devastating outcomes can occur in small children when lithium button batteries get lodged in a child’s esophagus. It causes an electrical current to go through the tissue. “The electrical current is causing more damage because it is splitting the water surrounding the button battery and forming hydroxide, which is an ingredient in lye. Imagine dropping little tiny drops of lye in one place in the esophagus,” Litovitz said.
The lye substance perforates the esophagus and goes into whatever tissue is nearby — it can be the aorta or the trachea. Serious complications also have been seen when small batteries are placed in the nose or ear, which is another situation where urgent removal is critical. “The important thing to remember is — these batteries are everywhere,” Litovitz said.
Kent Vice thinks Brianna saw the shiny battery and swallowed it, thinking it was candy. The family had no idea something so small could be so lethal. They do know that they never want another family to feel the pain they are now. Vice wants his granddaughter’s death to act as an eye-opener for parents and bring about change. “I want to keep these things out of houses,” he said. “They are dangerous.”
Although banning them from homes isn’t a likely solution, raising awareness about the potential danger is something we can all do. As the doctor said, these batteries are now everywhere. Informing others about this threat to little children in our homes is a must. In a blink of an eye, our entire world could change, all because of something a child found on the floor.