Summer's Story - a button battery tragedy

Summary: Summer Steer died in 2013 at the age of four from injuries caused by swallowing a button battery

Published: 2 November 2015

Andrea: Summer was an all-Australian kid, you know on the trampoline with her knickers on with the hose in the air, you know full of mud looking for worms, you know whatever, she, she was a tomboy. She was a very caring girl and yeah she, she was very, very active, very active.

News readers (various): Summer steer became the first Australian to die after swallowing a lithium button battery.

She will be fine is what her mother remembers being told by doctors the day her little girl died.

If an emergency x-ray had been taken doctors would’ve known she was a walking time bomb.

Andrea: So I took Summer to the doctor because over a two week period she had dark poo and I was worried about it and I got a diagnosis of giardia. So I thought everything was going to be ok. She was still playing, she was still drinking, eating, she was mucking around with her brother even the night before. She was riding up and down the driveway, she was laughing and carrying on, we built a cubby house. She seemed fine.

News reader: It has been revealed a button battery that killed a little Sunshine Coast girl could have been stuck in her throat for a fortnight.

Andrea: I called 000 at, it was just after 12 o’clock because Finn woke me up and said Summer’s got a blood nose. And I stood up, I saw blood on Summer just above her mouth. I went into the kitchen to get something to help clean her up and then Finn said she’s vomited blood.

The ambulance came and went into the hospital and she was examined by a doctor there, and they kept us in, um ah, but the doctor at the time was confident that it was about a blood nose so they sent us home. He thought she’d, from the blood nose she’d swallowed the blood and then vomited that up. But when we got out waiting for the taxi to go home Summer vomited blood out front the hospital quite a large amount. We went back in, someone came and picked her up from out front of the hospital, took her back in, and we stayed there until 6 o’clock in the morning.

In that time Summer had either vomited blood and slept, vomited blood and slept. I wouldn’t say she seemed ok. We were discharged and I, he, the doctor said I think she’s going to be alright. So we went home and um Summer slept on the lounge. I said we’ve all had a big night, there was blood all over my house but I said ok we’ve all, none of us have slept and so I just covered it up with towels and said ok let’s just rest.

Finn watched cartoons I lied on the lounge with Finn, Summer laid on the other lounge, and then it was I think 8 o’clock, Summer just stood up projectile vomited bright red, bright red blood and then just collapsed on the ground. So, immediately I said to Finn grab the phone, I picked Summer up, and Finn gave me the phone and I rang 000 and said it’s happened again.

I took Summer out the front to meet the ambulance because I was, I just wanted it to happen quickly. And um they said have you, where have you got Summer and I said she’s over my shoulder and they said ok put her down, turn her on her side can you hear a heartbeat, can you here her breathing. I said I can hear a heartbeat, ok and I said to Summer can you hear me, Summer can you hear me and she went ahhh yes mum. And I said ok she’s breathing, she’s breathing but please hurry up because I think she’s dying.

Then we got to the hospital and they said this is Summer Steer, she was here last night. There was a different doctor and she took action, she took bloods they got her on an IV fluids and she was still vivid, she was still talking and the doctor was on the phone to another hospital and that’s when they ordered the chopper to come.

And, and when the chopper arrived that’s when Summer threw up blood again so they anaesthetised her and put an ET tube down to have her on oxygen so that she was stable and then they took an x-ray to see that the ET tube was sitting in the right place and that’s when the battery was discovered. After that um all the doctors looked and said yes it’s a battery but it’s ok. We can go to Brisbane now and we’ll just have it taken out. They didn’t realise the effects that it was going to have. So I, I was relieved, the doctors were relieved. We thought we could just go to Brisbane and have it taken out.

Ah then Summer and I got in the chopper. Summer had a couple of blood transfusions and oh it was about half way down I looked at Summer and she had blood coming out of her nose and her mouth and they said it’s ok, it’s ok and when we got there, there was a team of people that um we wheeled Summer into. They were rushing into surgery and one of the paramedics stopped me and said it’s ok he turned me around and said it’s ok and I went yep it’s ok, they’re just taking her and he said yeah.

Then we kept walking it was probably a metre or so later, he stopped me again and turned me around and said it’s ok and at that stage I thought ok there was something wrong. And I turned around and Summer was being resuscitated and then she went into surgery and I still thought she was going to come out ok. And I had one of the, a lady surgeon come out and said I just need you to know that it’s going to be a long shot and I remember saying what do you mean, you just have to take it out. And she said no I need you to know it’s a long shot and I said she’s strong and she said it’s a long shot.

They called Brad and I into a conference room and I think there may have been about 10 doctors come in and I was still you know stupidly hopeful and um they said ok you know we need to tell you something and Brad, Summer’s dad, said she’s dead isn’t she and um they said yes. And at that stage I, well I lost it, of course, I just started punching myself in the head just going no no no and um Brad got up and we cuddled each other and then um ah we got to see Summer.  Ah they took us into the room where she was and ah we held her. I just held her and rocked and said come on, come on.

Andrea and Finn on beach: I’ve actually lost a lot of friends which you think would be unbelievable but um, I think because people don’t know what to say, so after a while they think well you’ve got to get on with it. Well you can never get on with it.

We never knew where the battery came from. They searched um my house, they searched the kindy. They searched my mum’s house because Summer and Finn had been there. It could have been off the street, it could have been from the shopping centre, it could have been anywhere we have no idea where it came from.

The main thing out of Summer’s death is we don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Because once they put that battery in their mouth, they do kill and if they don’t they cause just horrible, horrible injuries and manufacturers need to realise how much damage they’re causing, they need to be screwed down, they need to make them much safer. I see little girls and I think that should be my little girl. I’ve um, sorry. I’ve lost her future.

Sadly another Australian child has died after ingesting a button battery. It is estimated that 20 Australian children attend an emergency department each week with a button battery exposure.

Now is the time to take action.