A Boy, a Nickel and an X-Ray – When Your Kid Swallows a Coin

Grant likes to put stuff in his mouth. His fingers, Lego guys, the remote control, and so on. More often than not I’m telling him, “Grant! The only things that should go in your mouth are food and toothbrushes!” but to little avail.

Last week I was finishing lunch at the table when Grant came up to me, a very worried expression on his face.

“Mom,” he said, “I have something to tell you, and you’re going to be mad. I swallowed a nickel.”

At that point either the guilt or the coin traveling down his esophagus (or maybe a little of both) brought on much screaming and crying. He wasn’t choking, but he said his throat hurt, so of course I call the pediatrician’s office, who put me through to a nurse. Said I should take him to the ER. Great. I’ve lost track of the number of trips to the ER we’ve had since having kids. I gave Grant a glass of water to help the coin finish its travels down to his stomach, and after a few sips he stopped all crying and said his throat didn’t hurt anymore. Called the pediatrician back, explained that the boy felt fine, but the nurse still encouraged us to head to the ER to make sure it had gone down completely. And I don’t argue with nurses’ recommendations, as a general rule.

I made hasty arrangements for a dear neighbor to watch the other three kids (because the only thing worse than going to the ER with one kid is going with four kids), and Grant became despondent at the idea that his siblings would see friends while he was at the hospital.

“It’s not fair they get to go play!” he wailed.

“Hey, buddy,” I said, “It was your choice to suck on a nickel. If you don’t want to go to the ER and miss out on friends, you should probably stop putting coins and toys in your mouth. If Mommy had decided to swallow a nickel, then, yeah, it would be totally unfair. But it was your choice, so let’s go.”

Of course, logic like this doesn’t work on five year old boys. More crying ensued.

ER visit was fine, Grant got a nice souvenir copy of the x-ray, showing that nickel bright and obvious at the top of his gut. Doctor gave me the best news possible – we wouldn’t have to stalk Grant’s bathroom habits to make sure the coin came out. He said kids’ intestines are really elastic, and something round like a coin wasn’t likely to get stuck. We only had to call if Grant got a back stomach ache.

Unfortunately Grant was just a little too proud of his x-ray photo, showing it off and bragging to his friends. I’d ask him, “You’re not going to put any coins in your mouth again, right?” and he’d wave me away saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

I’m going to have to hide all the coins in the house.

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