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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Poison Control and a Very Strange Conversation

Last Saturday, I had what I think must be the strangest conversation of my life. Here’s an excerpt:

Battery Control: “What kind of battery was it?”

Bruck: “It was an alkaline battery, number CR2032.”

“Do you still have the battery? Can you send it to us?”

“No, I’m sorry, we disposed of it. What do you need it for?”

“We’d like to know the condition of the battery and the state of charge.”

“It was completely discharged. We checked that.”

“What about the condition of the battery itself, was there any pitting or rust on it?”

“The surface appeared to be tarnished or rusted, but there was no pitting.”

In your friendly editor’s humble opinion, every parent should post the number for Poison Control in a convenient location in the house, and I also recommend storing it in the cell phone directory. Here’s their national hotline number: 1-800-222-1222. Actually I recommend that everybody keep the number handy – you just never know when you’ll need it, AND sometimes you get to have really, really odd conversations.

Poison control has come to our rescue several times, mainly while the kids were small - eating non-food items, spider bites, etc. BTW, Poison Control is a non-profit organization. I’m not sure how they’re funded, but apparently not directly by taxpayers. In any case, I commend them for the good job they do. BTW, you can ask them about pet poisoning issues as well.

We had to call them a few years ago about some bread made by the extraordinary mother of Bruck during a family vacation. She had made some rosemary bread using fresh rosemary from the herb garden. The bread had a rather peculiar taste and we discovered that the plants we thought were rosemary were actually lavender. After several of us had tried it, we decided to call Poison Control to determine whether or not we all had just inadvertently participated in a suicide pact. They informed us that we hadn’t, and that in fact some recipes actually call for lavender. We didn’t want to know which ones.

More recently, young David, (teenaged) son of Bruck, through some unfathomable circumstances, swallowed a battery. It was a small one, a disk battery used in items such as TV remotes. He tried to make himself barf it out to no avail. Poison Control advised medical attention, so Mrs. Bruck took him to the emergency room, where an X-Ray revealed that the battery was indeed still in his stomach. This was fortunate, as the doctors would have indicated surgery had the battery still been in the esophagus, but since it was in the stomach they said it should pass through his system without harm.

That was the good news. The bad news was that young David had to check his stool for batteries over the next few days. So dutifully he dropped his stool into a bucket, and checked them with a paint stirrer. The stench was of course overwhelming so we compelled him to perform the examinations outdoors, which only helped a little. After a couple of days of this, the battery finally did emerge, much to the relief of all of us. Ever inquisitive, young David actually cleaned the battery off, and tested it in the TV remote, and confirmed our expectations that it was completely “discharged.”

Meanwhile, we were getting regular calls from the caring folks at Poison Control, looking for updates on the situation, which we provided. The last call was from a woman from the “Battery Control” office, which I assume is a department of Poison Control. Either that or she mistakenly said “battery” instead of “poison” on our answering machine. At any rate, she left a callback number with a DC area code, and a case number.

After the foreign object was eliminated, I called Battery Control back to report digestive success. Since it was a Saturday, I fully expected to get voicemail, in fact, I would have preferred it, but no, I got a live operator, with whom I had the conversation excerpted above.

Upon hanging up, it struck me how patently absurd it was that there was someone in Washington (on a Saturday!) that was keenly interested in the condition of a battery extracted from my teenaged son’s stool, and actually wanted the digested battery. I observed to Mrs. Bruck that I think I had just had the strangest conversation of my life.

PS. Yes, we did get a copy of the X-Ray! Click on the pic for a larger view.


  • At 10:57 AM, Blogger Mikey said…

    DUDE that is crazy! haha, i can't believe that he tested the battery to see if it still worked! brilliant!

    wouldn't the battery keep shocking him while it was still in his body, though?

  • At 2:55 PM, Blogger Bruck said…

    It did shock him and give him muscle spasms for a few minutes after he swallowed it, but then it was discharged. It got pretty hot, too.

  • At 12:30 AM, Blogger B said…

    HOW, HOW IN THE WORLD DID HE DO IT?? (caps intentional)

  • At 12:31 AM, Blogger B said…

    (swallow a battery, that is - I definitely don't want any more details regarding its "recovery")

  • At 8:18 PM, Blogger Bruck said…

    His story was, he had the battery in his mouth to "test" it, i.e., see if it tingled, while leaning back in a chair. Then the chair tipped back and deposited him on the floor and the battery went down his throat. I'm inclined to believe his story as anything else would be even more absurd!


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