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Boy undergoes more than 40 surgeries to repair damage by swallowed battery

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PHOENIX, Ariz. (KPHO) — It’s been nearly four years since a Phoenix boy swallowed a button battery from a remote control shortly after his first birthday.

The battery burned a hole in Emmett Rauch’s esophagus and caused other injuries – leaving him unable to breathe, eat or speak on his own.

It has been a long road to recovery, but there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel.

Emmett has had more than 40 reconstructive surgeries.

And, if everything works out, he’ll only have to endure one more.

Two years ago, Phoenix Children’s Hospital referred Emmett to doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital – one of the best in the nation for throat reconstruction.

“Emmett had complete removal of his esophagus and replacement using a foot of his colon,” explained his mother, Karla Rauch.

Karla Rauch said that procedure allowed her son, who will turn 5 in October, to begin to eat through his mouth.

On Wednesday, doctors in Cincinnati will perform rib-graft surgery to repair Emmett’s airway.

“One of the main reasons he needs a trach is because his airway is like sipping through a coffee straw,” Karla Rauch explained. “So, since none of us can breathe that way – what they’re going to do is take that cartridge to graft open the vocal cords and also patch an area where the battery burnt through his airway. So it’ll give him a nice strong, solid airway.”

That surgery will improve Emmett’s ability to speak.

And his mom is hopeful they’ll be able to remove his trach in a few months, allowing him to breathe normally.

“We still do sponge baths because a trach is direct access to your lungs, so you can drown very easily,” said Karla Rauch. “So he said one of the first things he wants to do is play soccer and go swimming when he gets his trach out.”

Emmett will spend several weeks recovering in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and should be home by mid-September.

Meantime, his mom has launched a campaign to spread awareness about the dangers of button batteries so other families won’t suffer as they have.

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