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Utah mom's nonverbal, autistic son spends two weeks in hospital after swallowing magnet toys

Posted at 9:34 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 23:38:13-05

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Misti Smith’s non-verbal, autistic son Braxton turned 20 at the end of September. He got a set of high-powered magnets from his grandparents.

“It's advertised and marketed as, 'This is for kids. This is for people with autism,'" said Smith. "There was no reason my parents looking at that would have thought, ‘Oh, we shouldn't buy this for him.'"

A few weeks later, her son suddenly kept throwing up, so she took him to the emergency room. An X-ray showed he swallowed five of the magnets, and surgeons removed 12 inches of his small intestine.

Dr. Katie Russell, the medical director of pediatric trauma surgery at University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, has seen up to 100 magnets in some kids.

“At our hospital, we see at least one of these kids a month, probably more," she said. “They actually make holes in the intestines where they click together because these magnets are so strong.”

Russell said the only way to save a child who has swallowed magnets is emergency surgery.

“I just want to make sure that families and parents know that these magnets can be really dangerous," she said.

Smith wants manufacturers to do more to warn parents of life-threatening hazards.

“We love that there's a wider market of sensory toys, but we do depend on those companies to make sure they are safe for our kids," she said. “I see this big gaping hole in his stomach and I think, ‘Magnets. That's what started this, is magnets.’ It blows my mind.”