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Girl, 11, hospitalized after swallowing popular toy

Posted at 6:45 AM, Dec 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-21 06:45:49-05

CHICAGO (WGN/CNN) – An 11-year-old in Chicago spent five days in the hospital and had two colonoscopies after she accidentally swallowed a pair of magnetic balls, part of a toy known as Buckyballs.

When a friend of 6th grader Halina brought Buckyballs, which are strong, pea-sized magnetic balls that come hundreds to a box, to school last Thursday, the 11-year-old asked to play with them.

“She put them on her lips, so one on either side of her lip, and they slipped off. The action of the magnets coming together sent them to the back of her throat, and she swallowed them,” said Halina’s father, Aaron Adams.

Halina went to the hospital immediately for treatment from a team that included Dr. Vincent Biank.

“This is a medical emergency. This is one of those things where if we get a call from the emergency room that there’s a child who has swallowed a magnet, we’re dropping everything and we’re coming in,” Biank said.

If untreated, Biank says the magnetic balls can connect two pieces of tissue together, causing kinks and perforations.

“If you perforate the GI [gastrointestinal] tract, you can get very sick, very quickly. It would kind of be like a perforated appendix. You can get incredibly ill, almost life-threatening ill,” Biank said.

Halina was at the hospital five days, and after two colonoscopies, the balls came out.

“It was terrifying, especially for something that you would think would most likely happen to a toddler, but then I found out what happened to Halina was typical,” Adams said.

Buckyballs were banned in 2012 because children were ingesting them and dying. The company sued, and the toy was put back on the market in 2016.

There is a warning about the dangers of swallowing the magnets on the website and on the packaging.

Halina told her dad she wants others to know about the hazard.

“Since this happened, I’ve heard from a number of friends and parents, who said, ‘My kid has them. I had no idea’ or ‘I got my kid this for Christmas, and now we’re taking it out from under the tree,’” Adams said.

Copyright 2017 WGN, Family photo, Buckyballs via CNN. All rights reserved.