A 2-year-old boy from Florida is back in the hospital after suffering complications from swallowing part of a toy composed of small magnetic balls.
Hannah Arrington told CNN that Konin, the youngest of her five children, found the pieces to the toy, commonly known as a Buckyball or Buckycube, after one of his older siblings brought it home from school in April.
The toys are marketed as desk toys for adults and are composed of multiple small, high-powered magnetic balls.
After discovering the toy, Arrington and her husband threw it away, knowing the danger it could bring to their toddler. But they didn’t know the damage had already been done.
Konin began having abdominal pain and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. But they decided to take him to the emergency room to rule out appendicitis or something more serious. An X-ray revealed the problem.
“On the X-ray, it showed a line that almost looked like a pull chain cord for a fan,” Arrington said.
Doctors found that Konin had swallowed 16 magnets that became linked together in his intestines, creating holes from his stomach all the way to his colon, according to Arrington.
“We got rushed from our local hospital to Arnold Palmer (Hospital for Children),” Arrington said. “He got the surgery done and they took out almost three feet of his small intestine. He also had to get the holes in his stomach repaired, holes in his large intestine repaired, and a part near his colon repaired as well.”
After about a week in the hospital, Konin was discharged and sent home. But he started losing weight and on Wednesday, he was readmitted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. His mother said he was diagnosed short bowel syndrome and has to be on a feeding tube.
Parents need to be aware of the danger
“I don’t think parents understand the amount of seriousness these desk toys have,” Arrington said.
Referring to a recent trend on social media where older kids swallow these toys to see if they will stick to something magnetic, Arrington said she just wants parents to be aware.
“We as parents want to get that out there to other parents and even kids who are thinking it will be a fun challenge, nothing will happen,” she said. “You can die from it, you can have lifelong issues from it because look where we are.”
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry that their kids are going to bring a toy home that could kill a younger sibling,” she said.
Dr. Jenna Wheeler, a critical care physician at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, told CNN that the hospital has treated four children for swallowing magnets from similar toys so far in 2021.
“The concern with swallowing these toys is that the intestines can become twisted and pinched between the magnets, which can cut off blood flow to the intestines,” Wheeler said. “If that segment of the intestines dies, it may need to be removed. And if not caught early enough, it could even lead to death.”
Wheeler said if Buckycube or similar toy has been in a home and a child experiences significant abdominal pain or a “hard” stomach, paleness or vomiting, it could be an indication that they swallowed part of this toy.
The symptoms are vague, she said, but “parents should definitely bring their child in to be examined if they have concerns.”
CPSC has warned about the danger of magnetic toys
Since 2009 the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said it has received multiple reports of ingestions involving Buckyballs and Buckycubes, many of which required surgery.
In June 2020, the CPSC said that there were an estimated 4,500 incidents of magnet ingestion treated in US hospital emergency departments from 2009 to 2018.
In 2012, the CPSC sued a manufacturer to stop the company from selling the product and give refunds to all purchasers, saying the toy posed “a substantial risk of injury to the public.”
In 2013, six retailers pulled the toys from stores because of the risks to children, and recalls were issued in 2015 for the products not being properly labeled to “Keep Away from All Children.”
The CPSC has published a safety alert about the products. The latest recall involving a similar product was issued in May 2020.