NEW ORLEANS - At the New Orleans Convention Center, 8,000 pediatricians are gathering for the national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
And those who specialize in children's digestive problems, are sounding an alarm about a terrible health condition caused by a toy.
It's the reason one child from Kiln, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast, will never be same.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Braylon Jordon may never eat normally again. His backpack that he must wear at all times, constantly feeds special nutrition directly into his blood stream.
"We are literally sounding an alarm. I do not think people understand the implications of this simple little toy and the danger it causes for our kids, said Dr. Mark Gilger, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children's Hospital.
A new, national survey done at LSU Health Sciences Center, finds that the number of children and teens swallowing rare earth magnets is sky rocketing. Young children explore the world by putting things in their mouths. Preteens and teens pretend the magnets are face piercings of the cheek, nose and tongue and accidentally swallow them.
"We've had over a 10 fold increase over the past two years," said Dr. Adam Noel, an LSUHSC pediatric gastroenterologist who practices at Children's Hospital in New Orleans.
The increase is since packages began carrying warnings of the dangers and a statement that children younger that 14 should not play with them.
"When you realize that 10 percent of these children require long term care because they ingested a toy, that is just not acceptable," Dr. Noel continued. He says that the human cost and the cost to the health care system is staggering.
Pediatric gastroenterologists are trying to educate parents and doctors in the E.R. about the immediate steps that need to be taken if the Neodymium magnets are swallowed. Twelve hours inside the body can cause major damage, holes in intestines, serious life-threatening infections when the powerful industrial magnets connect.
Most of Braylon's small intestines are now gone. They once were a yard long, now that organ has been cut down to only six inches, not allowing food nutrients that are eaten, to be absorbed.
Since the accident in early April of 2012, the medical costs have mounted to as much as $2 million. And they will continue to rise since he will need long-term care. He is currently not on a small intestine transplant list, but long-term survival following that surgery is not very high. Braylon spent months in Children's Hospital in New Orleans, one month in the ICU. He has also traveled to Pittsburgh hospitals. The parents have no lawsuit against the company and just want to help other families not go through what they have.
"We bought the magnets before he was born," said Meaghin Jordon, 20, Braylon's mother.
They were kept hidden in a cabinet, taken out only after Braylon's bedtime. But eight of them unknowing fell on the floor and he ate them.
What stung the young couple even more was when people wrote cruel messages about their parenting skills on the web. Dr. Noel defended the young parents saying one of them was always at Braylon's side for his long stay in the hospital. He said they were very hands-on, doing all the medical treatments that the nurses do.
"It was a very hard time for us. We didn't know anything about the process we would have to go through," said Jonathan Jordon, 22, Braylon's father.
"Throw them away," exclaimed Dr. Gilger when asked what parents should do if the magnets are in their home. "This is an industrial strength magnet. This is used in our hybrid automobiles, in our computer hard drives, and in the batteries for our power tools."
The doctors say they have also heard of injuries from the industrial magnets in dogs and at least one adult.
One teen who was injured only swallowed one magnet. That would normally pass through and out of the digestive tract like a penny and not cause damage. But it stuck to the inside of the ring in her belly button piercing.
The professional medical society leading this campaign is NASPGHAN, The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. They have met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They say 11 of the 13 manufactures in the U.S. voluntarily removed the magnets. The others are fighting to keep them on the market. They can also be ordered from many places on the Internet.
NASPGHAN home page:
Statement by NASPGHAN: