It’s a tragic death that could have been avoided. An Australian hospital dismissed a young girl for having a virus, after she had swallowed a button battery. She later died from her injuries.

Lorraine and David Conway, who live on the Gold Coast, has spoken publicly for the first time about the awful death of their adorable three-year-old daughter, Brittney.

“She just had a beautiful nature….just a really content and happy little girl,” Mrs Conway said on ABC News.

“She had a thousand sparkles in her eyes.”

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The Third Victim Of A Button Battery

The Conways are pushing for government regulations regarding the use and accessibility of button batteries to small kids, after Brittney became the third Aussie victim of these deathly discs since 2013.

Mrs Conway initially had no idea that her toddler had swallowed the battery.

“I first noticed when she came to me (on the afternoon of 6 July this year) and said, ‘Mummy, my throat is sore’, and then she vomited,” the devastated mum said.

“I had just given her a [lollipop] and I thought she had eaten too big of a chunk and swallowed it.

“That’s when I sat her on the lounge and monitored her and then she vomited another two times, that’s when I called the house call doctor.

Food Poisoning?

“He actually just thought it was food poisoning.”

The following day, Brittney once again vomited after eating and had a sudden, unexplained nose bleed and complained of a bad pain in her chest.

“She put her hands straight on her chest and she bent over, the extraordinary pain in her voice when she said, ‘Mummy, Mummy, my boobies are hurting’,” Mrs Conway said.

Yet Another Misdiagnosis

The mum then took Brittney to Queensland’s Robina Hospital and said that the doctor diagnosed her daughter with a probable virus.

“I demonstrated how she was pressing on her chest, the way she was bending over, the whole lot and I said to him, “Can we get an X-ray?”

“And he just said, ‘We will monitor her’ but no chest X-ray was ever done. He didn’t physically examine her at all.”

conways button battery
Devastated parents. Pic via ABC Sunshine Coast: Annie Gaffney

No X-Ray Was Taken

Brittney was monitored in the hospital for around four hours but was then sent home with doctors saying that the virus could last up to five days.

The girl was in pain everytime she ate, so four days later, Mrs Conway went to see a local GP. The doctor checked Brittney’s stomach and said it was viral.

“I’m not a doctor in any way, I’m only a mum, but I just knew something wasn’t right with her,” Mrs Conway said.

Terrifying Discovery

Nine days after Brittney first showed symptoms of being unwell, her mum found her in her bed “lying in a pool of blood, unconscious.”

The little girl was taken to Gold Coast University Hospital by ambulance and was x-rayed on arrival. Finally, the mystery had been solved.

“That’s when I was told that she had a button battery ingested in her chest area,” Mrs Conway said.

Unfortunately, it was too late.

“It had burnt through her oesophagus, into her aorta,” the mum shared.


Brittney was taken to surgery to undergo a grueling nine-hour surgical procedure to remove the battery and was transferred to the Queensland Children’s Hospital where she endured further surgery.

Sadly, eight days later on 28 July, she died from her injuries, three long weeks after she had swallowed the battery.

Review Of Brittney’s Death

Queensland Health declined to comment on the specifics of the case as the matter is under review. However, the organisation advised ABC News that it is currently “carrying out a review of Brittney’s death and extends “sincere condolences” to her family and friends.”

“Brittney’s death was tragic and we welcome her family’s input in the Independent Patient Safety review,” it said in a statement.

“As professionals who dedicate their lives to caring for others, the staff who treated Brittney are also deeply saddened by her passing.

“Gold Coast Health will fully embrace any recommendations from the review.”

Brittney’s death has also been reported to the Coroners Court of Queensland. Brisbane coroner Don MacKenzie, will continue to investigate and is waiting for the pathologist report and other details.

button batteries or baby killers

Unnecessary Tragedy

Each week nationally, 20 children go to hospital suspected of swallowing a button battery.

CHOICE Editorial Director Margaret Rafferty has commented on the tragedy:

“We’re devastated to hear that another child has tragically passed away from ingesting a button battery. Our thoughts go out to their family and loved ones and to all the other families who have experienced the unnecessary tragedy of death or injury due to these products. Button batteries are a common but deadly household item that can seriously harm children. When ingested or swallowed, these small round batteries can quickly burn through a child’s oesophagus or other internal organs, causing serious and irreversible injury or death.

“We know that the voluntary safety code isn’t working because when we tested common household items containing button batteries in our labs nearly 60% failed to meet the standard. That means that the batteries in those products were easily accessible, posing a huge risk to young children. CHOICE will continue to call for strong protections to help prevent this kind of tragedy. We know there is a solution that will keep children safer – a mandatory standard for button batteries which will make it harder for these deadly batteries to slip out of common household items and into the hands of our little ones.”

Demand An X-Ray

Kidsafe chief executive Susan Teerds said that anyone who suspects a child has swallowed a battery – whether it is fully charged or flat – should call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or triple-0.

“You can go directly to an emergency department if you know your child has swallowed a button battery and ask for an X-ray.”

Do not leave the hospital until an x-ray is taken! Otherwise, the consequences can be deadly.

What a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with the family. Share your comments below.

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  • Very sad to read,a gorgeous little girl gone far too soon.


  • This happens far too often – I don’t know that there’s a perfect solution, though.


  • So very sad, our thoughts are with the family as well.


  • What a terrible tragedy. I wish some doctors would listen to the parents instincts more often.


  • It’s so horrible that a family has to go through this when a simple X-ray could have been taken in the first place. Condolences to the family.


  • What a terrible tragedy of another button battery death. Instead of brushing Mum off, they should have done and xray just to rule out anything else besides food poisoning or a viral infection. My deepest sympathies to Mr and Mrs Conway. RIP Brittney.


  • So awful and I really think there should be some kind of law that if a parent requests an x-ray it has to be done- this might have been avoided!


  • This breaks my heart that I continue to see stories of children dying from these batteries.


  • That’s so tragic… a timely reminder to always keep an eye on your kids and ensure you know what they’re up to.


  • Such a terribly tragedy, RIP little one


  • This is terrible! Poor bubba poor parents.
    My kids had a Maccas toy with these batteries & a book and they fell out! The manufacturers need to have a standard where these batteries are more secure in the devices/ toys.


  • One would hope that things like this wouldn’t happen in this day and age. So many things can go wrong so quickly and mis diagnoses should be called out earlier. My heart goes out to this poor family who did everything in their power for their daughter. Such a sad thing to happen.


  • How heartbreaking for the parents, and such a failure on the doctor’s side of things. I hope this changes their attitude to parents and patients.


  • X-rays aren’t always appropriate, but in this case it would probably have saved a life.


  • Oh no, this is so absolutely heartbreaking and devastating. My heart goes out to the family.


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