Mum's desperate plea as toddler, 2, dies hours after swallowing remote control battery

Heartbroken mother Stacey Nicklin is warning other parents about the everyday risks of button batteries

Stacey Nicklin, the mum of two-year-old toddler Harper-Lee, is raising awareness of button batteries after her daughter died from swallowing one (Photos: BBC/Shutterstock).
Stacey Nicklin, the mum of two-year-old toddler Harper-Lee, is raising awareness of button batteries after her daughter died from swallowing one (Photos: BBC/Shutterstock).

A grief-stricken mum is warning parents about the dangers batteries pose to young children after her daughter died from swallowing one from a remote control.

Harper-Lee Fanthorpe, 2, was rushed to Royal Stoke University Hospital on 23 May after vomiting blood, becoming unresponsive and “wheezy” at home.

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There she was given a two-litre blood transfusion after losing ‘half the blood in her body’ before heading into the operating theatre.

Harper-Lee suffered a cardiac arrhythmia during surgery, medics said as they discovered the battery.

The two-year-old tragically died as the acid from the button battery burned through her food pipe and into a major artery.

Now, her mum Stacey Nicklin is desperate to raise awareness among other parents.

She said she had no idea Harper-Lee had swallowed the object - before finding a remote control with a missing button battery in her bedroom.

Nicklin, who broke down in tears during an interview with BBC Breakfast, said: "I told her I loved her and that's the last time I saw her.

“Half way through the surgery, the surgeon come out and asked if she’d swallowed anything.

“I said ‘not that I know’ and that’s where they told me they think she’s swallowed a button battery.”

As well as remote controls, button batteries are used in a huge range of products from watches to toys, hearing aids, scales and calculators.

The Government launched a campaign at the beginning of 2021 to warn against the dangers of children swallowing button batteries which have become commonplace in the home.

The campaign points to when button batteries react with saliva it creates caustic soda, which is the chemical often used to unblock drains.

‘It just slid out’

Nicklin added: “It’s just the house is just so quiet isn’t it?” she said on screen to her daughter. “And all through a button battery that we didn’t know the dangers of,” she continued.

“We actually found the remote with the button battery in and I turned it around and it just come out. It weren’t even secure.

“There was no lock, there was no little thing that you had to push in to get it out, it just slid out.”

An inquest into Harper-Lee’s death on 14 June ruled that it was accidental - and heard surgeons discovered a hole in the two-year-old's oesophagus.

"It's about awareness. If I can save one child or a hundred, then I've promised my baby I've done what I've done,” Nicklin added.

"They need to be more secure. Parents need to check. Just check, check, check."

North Staffordshire senior coroner Andrew Barkley added: "There is a very clear concern about this in public health. It has affected lots of children."

‘Feels like a dream’

Jamie-Leigh Nicklin-Hulme was looking after her younger sister at the time.

She explained how her sister’s “head went back” before she began vomiting.

"She wasn't responding,” she said. “She just went very wheezy, her eyes just closed and she couldn't talk back to me, like she wasn't there.”

"It doesn't feel real, it feels like a dream."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said it was a "tragic accident" and pledged to raise awareness of the dangers of button batteries.

Consultant paediatrician at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, Anna Pigott, said this was not the first time a child had swallowed this kind of battery.

She urged parents to become aware of symptoms like coughing up blood, drooling, as well as a child pointing to their throat or tummy as it was not an isolated case.