Rare-Earth Magnets: Florida Teen Christin Rivas Swallowed Six Rare-Earth Magnets Went On Surgery

By on Dec 6, 2013 in Health, United States Comments
Rare-Earth Magnets
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Six rare-earth magnets were accidentally swallowed by one Florida teen just before Thanksgiving. The 14-year-old Christin Rivas got the rare-earth magnets from a friend at church. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the first newspaper to report her story that “while playing with a couple of these rare-earth magnets at her Satellite Beach middle school, Christin needed both hands to grab something, so she decided to hold the mini-magnets in her mouth. Someone made her laugh that made her swallow the magnets.”

“I do feel it was one of those stupid kid moments,” Christin said in the report. “I was going to the bathroom and I put them in my mouth because I didn’t want to put them on the floor. I wasn’t quite thinking. The kid on the other side said something that made me laugh and swallow them.”

“I started to try to make myself throw up because I read they were really dangerous and got really worried,” she said. “I told my teacher, and she sent me to the clinic and they called my mom.”

Christin‘s mother, Barbara Rivas, made a quick computer research and was alarmed how dangerous the magnets were and rushed Christin to the emergency room at Wuesthoff Medical Center for an X-ray, the doctor ordered an X-ray, then sent Christin and her mother home and told them to wait until they passed.

However, Barbara hit the panic button after hearing those advice and decided to get a second opinon.

“I didn’t like what I saw on Google,” said Rivas, a 52-year-old mother of five. “They said you have to get them out before three hours or they get really dangerous.”

Barbara was then referred to Arnold Palmer Hospital for children in Orlando where doctors admitted Christin and tracked her magnets’ path by X-ray. But when the magnets passed into her small intestine and doctors were unable to flush them out with laxatives, the doctors decided to surgically remove the magnets from her intestines, along with a small section of her colon and her appendix.

“She came in overnight feeling fine, and in the morning when we repeated her X-ray we saw what looked like two round magnets and they had passed into the stomach,” said Dr. Tejas Mehta, her gastroenterologist. “We thought we could do an upper endoscopy and be done with it.”

Five days later, Christin is now home and “doing well,” according to her mother, who said she’d like to see these magnets banned.

Learning from her own experience, Christin wanted to warn people by sharing her story to make them more aware how dangerous the rare-earth magnets specially to toddlers and younger children, because they cannot tell their parents if or what they have swallowed and treatment can get delayed.

“Kids swallow a lot of objects,” said Dr. Tejas Mehta, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Arnold Palmer who treated Christin, “but from a GI perspective, magnets cause more damage than anything else.”

Christin advice people to avoid the rare-earth magnets because they are very dangerous unless they are used for the right things.

“Don’t even think about touching them or buying them,” Christin said. “I messed up my intestines. I worry about that down the road.”

Report says that magnet-related emergency-room visits among Americans younger than 21 increased five times from 2002 to 2011. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates the sale of products in the United States estimates that at least 1,700 children were taken to the ER between 2009 and 2011 for ingesting rare-earth magnets (sometimes sold as Buckyballs). Last year, the safety commission asked retailers and makers of Buckyballs and Zen Magnets, a similar toy, to stop selling them. However, these rare-earth magnets can still be bought online.

Rare-earth magnets are made in different sizes and shapes. It is the strongest type of permanent magnets made, producing significantly stronger magnetic fields than other types such as ferrite or alnico magnets. These are made from alloys of rare earth elements. The pea-size magnets are made for car wheel bearings and computer hard drives but are often sold for jewelry and art projects.

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