(CNN) -- An Indianapolis girl may have been among the first victims of Mattel's magnet mishap at the center of Tuesday's recall of millions of dolls made in China.
An employee removes Polly Pockets toys Tuesday, the same toy that sickened an Indianapolis girl.
Paige Kostrzewski was 7 years old in July 2005 when she was playing with her new Polly Pocket toy, whose plastic clothes attached to the doll with magnets.
When some of the magnets detached from some of the clothing, Paige placed two of them between her lips so that her hands would be free to affix the rest of the clothes, said her mother, Misty May.
A few days later, the girl complained of abdominal pain, but May attributed it to the flu. Watch what parents should look out for »
"I never thought in a million years she'd swallowed a magnet," the 27-year-old mother of four told CNN in a telephone interview.
But May's concern for her daughter soon heightened.
"When she started puking green, that's when I knew something wasn't right," she said.
May took Paige to a hospital, where a scan revealed that two magnets -- each about the size of a watch battery -- had lodged in her small bowel. See what toys have been recalled »
Surgery discovered the magnets had attached to each other, separated only by a thin piece of tissue, May said.
"She had ended up swallowing two of the magnets, and they had somehow connected together inside her intestine, which caused two holes -- punctures -- in her intestines, which caused everything to just seep into her body," May said.
With the seepage came a massive infection.
"If I had waited a few more days, she would have died," May said doctors had told her.
Paige, who will be 10 in November, required two weeks of hospitalization for treatment of her infection and return trips to the doctor every few weeks for months thereafter, May said.
In all, the treatment cost about $40,000.
"I went straight to a lawyer," she added.
Retained by the family, product-liability attorney Gordon Tabor filed suit, and Mattel settled for an amount he would not disclose.
Mattel's CEO, Bob Eckert, said he would not discuss litigation.
"I bet he won't," Tabor told CNN.
Last November, the 62-year-old toymaker voluntarily recalled 4.4 million Polly Pocket products, about 2.5 million of them in the United States. That recall was expanded Tuesday.
May said the experience has moved her to alter her toy-buying habits. "I inspect things more, and there's certain things now I won't allow them to play with no more -- nothing with magnets, nothing that I think is going to fall apart."
May faulted the company for not having recalled the products sooner. "It should have been done two years ago, when my daughter almost died," she said.
A representative of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group in Washington, said Mattel should have had better safeguards in place.
"They should have never allowed it to happen in the first place," said Ed Mierzwinski, the organization's consumer program director. "They have a responsibility to avoid recalls." E-mail to a friend