Aussie mum’s warning: how a common household item killed my baby

Read her heartbreaking letter.

After Allison lost her daughter in horrendous circumstances, she’s determined no other family will suffer the same.

Read Allison Rees, 36, letter to her late baby girl:

Dear Isabella, my sweet baby,

It’s funny how a mummy knows, instinctively, certain things.

From the moment I first felt you in my tummy I knew you were a little girl.

Already having your big brother, Lachlan, I was desperate for a daughter and when you were born I felt so lucky. We all did. 

I remember Lachlan, then two, racing after the doctor as you were taken for routine checks. ‘My sister!’ he called.

Your daddy, Robert, and I reassured him you’d be back for cuddles soon. If only it was so easy to reassure him now.

If only I could still have one of those cuddles, drink in your baby smell and tell you how much I love you.

‘Clip clop,’ was one of your first words, Bella.

You’d spy a picture of a horse pretty much everywhere we went!

You loved music too and the image of you bopping along to the radio in your car seat still makes me smile.

family photo
Robert, Bella and me

You were 14 months old when I got the call. Daddy had been looking after you while I was at work.

‘Bella’s been vomiting and she passed out on the way to hospital,’ he told me.

I could hear the stress in his voice and the 40-minute drive to meet you both there was agonising. ‘She’ll be okay,’ my colleague had said.

But the moment I saw you that mummy’s instinct hit again. Floppy and pale, I knew you weren’t right.

‘What if she swallowed something?’ Daddy was asking the doctors. You’d been in the garden, then at the park. He was thinking
of every eventuality, but the doctors told us it was probably just a virus, to take you home and call if anything changed.

Back home you didn’t get better. You had a fever, were drooling and wanted to be held.

We took you back to hospital and when you did a black poo in your nappy, I wanted answers.

‘There was a piece of a water balloon in the nappy too,’ I told the nurse. ‘She must have been putting things in her mouth.’

But we were sent away again with antibiotics.

Nearly two weeks on, you learnt a new word. ‘Ouch, ouch,’ you said, still smiling at me.

It’s only now I realise the significance. You were in pain and we didn’t know.

Then a few days after that things got really serious.

Going to get you one morning, there was blood everywhere.

At hospital, I was hysterical. They gave you an X-ray and it showed what looked like a coin in your throat.

‘We need to get a blood transfusion,’ someone was saying.

And then it happened so quickly. You collapsed. More blood. My screams.

Nurses pulled me away as people ran from everywhere.

You were having a cardiac arrest as I stood transfixed, watching it happen. I felt the change.

The monitors said you were still there but I felt you go. I held you in my arms as you stopped breathing, Bella.

Back home, Lachlan’s words stopped me in my tracks.

‘Bella came to me when I was asleep and told me she’d died,’ he said. 

Bella and Lachlan
Bella and Lachlan

Through it all I couldn’t understand how the coin in your throat had done all this.

Then a closer inspection of the X-ray showed it wasn’t a coin. It was a lithium button battery – the kind you find in TV remotes, some household appliances and even toys.

Lodged in your throat, its acid had slowly burnt into your aorta causing a massive haemorrhage and heart attack.

‘Where did Bella get the battery?’ I kept asking.

I knew how dangerous those batteries were and we were so careful.

After you died I spent hours scouring the house for a missing battery but I never found where it came from.

The list of ‘if onlys’ was so long. But the main one was, if only we’d known the symptoms of swallowing a button battery.

The vomiting, high blood pressure, the drool, the dark poo. You had every one and yet we didn’t get an X-ray done earlier. We didn’t get the battery removed and we didn’t save your life.

Bella, I think about you and what happened every day.

When I fell pregnant with Charlotte three months after you left us, it was such a shock.

Me, with Charlotte and Lachlan today

I struggled so much feeling like I was replacing you. But as time went on I came to realise you sent her to us.

I still hear Lachlan playing with you and I still feel you, so I know Charlotte was your way of helping me heal.

You’ve given me the strength to write this letter too – to help other families avoid our heartache.

I just pray that, in doing so, you and I might stop another mummy and baby suffering like we have.

You were here for such a short time, but your legacy means so much.

Love you, Mummy xx

precious girl
I think about my precious girl every day


In Australia at least one child every day is hospitalised from button batteries. Acid from an electrical current in the batteries, which are used in watches, calculators and even musical greeting cards, rapidly burns surrounding tissue, causing life-threatening injuries within two hours, and in some cases death. Ensure devices are securely fastened and kept out of reach of children.

If your child swallows a battery, take them to emergency immediately. Symptons may include chest pain, coughing, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and vomiting. 

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!, on sale now.

Related stories