Kids make mistakes, but few of them have had to go through the kind of pain and anguish that 6-year-old Mikah Arvidson of Utah has experienced after he made one poor decision. The boy swallowed 14 magnet balls while trying to hide that he had sneaked into his older brother's room to play with one of his toys. Instead of getting caught, he quickly put pieces of the magnetic ball building blocks puzzle in his mouth to hide the evidence. Now, Mikah is fighting for his life, and his parents are speaking out against the toy that many parents unknowingly buy their kids to help them treat symptoms of ADHD or autism.
"These aren’t stocking-stuffer toys," his mom says.
Aubrey and Blake Arvidson said that they noticed something seriously wrong with Mikah when he was sick on Halloween and "started vomiting profusely."
Speaking with CafeMom, Mikah's mom, Aubrey, says that on Halloween night her son "just started acting weird."
"His stomach hurt, he didn’t feel good. He wasn’t acting like himself. He had previously been super excited to go trick-or-treating. And right when it was pretty much time to go, he was like, ‘I just want to go home, Mommy. I don’t feel good,'" she says.
Mikah spent the rest of the night vomiting "every 20 to 30 minutes."
"(He) threw up most of the day on Thursday. By that time I had called a few neighbors because their kids had had stomach flu and was just asking them their symptoms," Aubrey explains. "And ironically they sort of had the same symptoms with the stomach pains and the cramps and the vomiting. And so we just thought, 'Oh, we’ve got the stomach flu.'"
His stomach hurt, he didn’t feel good. He wasn’t acting like himself.
The family decided to wait another day to see if Mikah's bug would pass, but instead of getting better, his symptoms got much, much worse.
"I called my doctor and she said, 'We keep seeing the stomach flu. I’ll call you in a prescription for Zofran,'" Aubrey says. "It didn’t really seem to help, but he didn’t really have anything left in him because he hadn’t been eating."
On Saturday morning, Aubrey took her son to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City because "he couldn’t walk, he could barely sit up, and so I took him in and when we got in emergency room, they took him in pretty quickly because he was vomiting in the emergency room," his mom says.
"They did blood work and put in an IV, gave him more Zofran and gave him some fluids, and he just started immediately vomiting profusely," she adds. "So, they took him back for X-rays, and that’s when they discovered he had something inside of him that we weren’t aware of and he wasn’t aware of."
Mikah had swallowed 14 magnets—each the size of a pinhead—from a magnet set that his mother had given his brother to help manage his ADHD.
Doctors saw a shadow on Mikah's X-ray but couldn't figure out what it was. They decided to perform an exploratory surgery on the boy, which is when they discovered 14 magnets lodged in his small intestine.
"When they went in for the surgery, they discovered that his small intestines had been perforated in two different locations, and the magnets had just kind of kinked a section of his intestines so it was all backed up," Aubrey explains. "So, he had a blockage, and he had been leaking bile over the last three days, so he had some sepsis, and they had to just clean out his entire cavity."
But where did the magnets come from?
"Later we found out that his brother Curtis, who’s 11, had these ZEN magnets. They're these tiny little magnets. They’re kind of a spinoff off of Buckyballs ... they come in a little block, there’s 216 in a pack, and it’s an inch by an inch and you mold them, fidget with them, do different things," Aubrey says. "And so Mikah went in Curtis' room and got these magnets, and then when Curtis came up the stairs, Mikah hid them in his mouth so that his brother wouldn’t know that he had them."
Mikah then left his brother's room and took the magnets out of his mouth once the coast was clear "but he didn’t get them all out. Some of them had broken off from him just swishing them around in his mouth while he was hiding them."
Mikah hadn't even realized that he swallowed the magnets at the time.
"Fourteen of those magnets are about the size of two to three peas," Aubrey says. "Because I said to him, 'Did you swallow them?' And he said, 'I think I might have swallowed like one.' So, maybe what thought was one was 14. And he just didn’t think it was a big deal. He just cleared it from his memory. It was like something he didn’t think was important to say to anyone."
But those magnets would end up changing Mikah's life forever. Once doctors discovered the magnets, the real challenge began.
When doctors tried to remove all of the magnets, some of them dropped down into Mikah's large intestine, which led to a second surgery. "Then they had to go through and take out his appendix and go through his appendix to get into his large intestine to remove those magnets," his mom tells CafeMom.
Doctors told Mikah's parents that they'd monitor his progress after the surgery to make sure he didn't get an infection.
"Well, after seven days of being in the hospital, he just kept getting worse and worse. So, they decided to open him back up and they found another perforation." Mikah had been leaking bile again. "His entire body cavity was full of infection and bile." Doctors took all of Mikah's organs out, "cleaned him out, put him back together."
But four days later, his fever began to spike again to about 104/105 degrees. "His white blood cell count was up, so they took him in again, opened him up. He had an infection again. And the third surgery they did an open-packed wound and he’s two days out of that and just slowly recovering. He’s just being carefully monitored," Aubrey says.
The Arvidsons are now stuck playing the waiting game but are sharing their story so that other parents can learn from their son's mistake.
For now, Mikah and his family don't have a "go home" date, but Aubrey says she knows that they'll be there for at least another week. "They’re just going to take it one day at a time," she says.
"Something that’s been hard for me—I had been feeling all this mom guilt. I hadn’t known what the signs of sepsis were. I didn’t realize that magnets could literally tear your entire inside up. I didn’t even know that he had them in there," Aubrey says. "But I have had moms tell me, 'If my child swallowed these magnets, I would have just told them, 'Oh, you’ll pass them. You just swallowed a quarter last week, and it came out fine.'"
That is why Aubrey has decided to share her story with the world, adding that she wishes she would have researched the magnets before purchasing them for her boy. "If I had even just typed in the name on Google, I would have seen all these articles about thousands of children who had emergency room surgical procedures because of these," she says.
"These specific magnets that they have out on the market are 20 times stronger than a regular fridge magnet. And they’re so tiny that they look harmless, [but] they do serious damage—I mean, they’re fatal," she continues.
As for Mikah, Aubrey says her son hopes that other kids can learn from his story. "He realizes that he made a mistake," she says. "It’s hard because they make mistakes all the time, but you usually don’t have to go through this type of anguish when you make a small mistake."
The Arvidsons have also created a GoFundMe page to help cover their son's medical expenses.
This post was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.