This story describes handling a medical situation involving a child ingesting a foreign object. Some language might be offensive to some readers. Also, every child and situation is different. Please consult your doctor if you need medical advice.
“Mama, I swallowed a penny!” So began the series of events leading to me kneeling beside my toilet searching for the coin my four-year-old ingested.
How I managed to make it through two kids and more than four years of parenting before either of them swallowed a foreign object is nothing short of a miracle. I never fully baby-proofed my home and my little ones are always getting into precarious situations. I’d like to think I did a decent job of enforcing certain rules like, staying away from the stove and crawling backwards down the stairs until walking has been mastered. I am humble enough to admit keeping my kids safe is equal parts quick reflexes and just plain good luck.
This luck includes having a child who was always cautious, and only needed a few stern warnings to understand dangerous behavior. I didn’t even need to do any real baby-proofing until I gave birth to my curious second child, who leaves no drawer unopened, no cap unscrewed and no chair un-climbed. If anyone was going to swallow something, it would be him, not my careful four-year-old.
I should have known something might happen, because my oldest still likes to chew on toys, his shirt and other objects. I’ve read this could be a sensory thing, but that is a discussion for another post. Unlike his younger brother, he understands these objects aren’t food. For some reason, chewing on them makes him feel better.
Still, a penny was a surprise.
When my son told me he swallowed a penny, his fear got to me, and ensued a panic-infused effort to figure out what to do. I frantically Googled, while my husband rushed my son to the bathroom to try and get my son to vomit up the coin. (Turns out, you shouldn’t do that, so learn from me, folks). Once, I calmed down and realized my son was breathing and not in immediate danger, I understood the only thing I could do was wait until my son passed the coin. And by pass, I mean shit.
Every medical site said to wait no more than 48 hours. Anything longer could mean the coin is stuck somewhere in my child’s body. For two days I hovered over my son waiting for him to use the bathroom so I could see if the coin passed safely through his digestive system. Apparently, there is a kit you can buy to catch whatever foreign object your kid ingested. I did not know this. So when my kid dropped a deuce, I donned the rubber gloves and channeled what I learned from the archaeological dig I once did on a teen tour.
Finding nothing, I panicked. What if the coin already slipped down the toilet? Would I have to take my son to the emergency room? Would he need surgery?
Before I let fear take over my brain, I remembered my son still had another day to pass the coin.
As the day neared its end, and nothing happened, my worry intensified. I sent my child to bed, knowing I’d likely be taking him to the hospital the next day. I thought about how I would convince him to go and what I would do to keep him calm. As I mentioned, we have been extremely lucky, and the emergency room isn’t something familiar to my son.
Then, finally, my son had to go again. Once more, I put on the gloves and with hopeful determination, I dug through his poop. The penny was found! Grossed out, but very much relieved, I thanked the universe for keeping my son safe.
This penny was pretty lucky, after all.