‘My favorite’ gift
Meredith said she likes Buckyballs because “you can use them for fake piercings on your ear, your nose, lip or tongue.” On braces, too. The magnets are also very strong, she said, “so you can make different stuff out of them.”
Many friends had them, so she was excited to get a set for Christmas. Her siblings, 11 and 13, also each got a box.
She didn’t read the warnings about not putting the magnets in her nose, mouth or ears.
“I just opened it,” she said.
“It was probably my favorite of everything I got until I swallowed it,” she said of the magnets.
On Jan. 17, a Tuesday, she was in the library at Oak View Elementary School, checking out a book with a friend. The two magnets were in her pocket.
After she swallowed them, Meredith, at her friend’s urging, told the school nurse. The nurse sent Meredith back to class, but as a courtesy, notified Meredith’s mother, Helen DelPrete.
DelPrete called her pediatrician, Gary Bergman, as a precaution and was told to take Meredith to the emergency room immediately.
Luckily for Meredith, the two magnets had connected in her esophagus, making the situation less dangerous, doctors said. For four days, doctors monitored the movement of the magnets in Meredith’s body. She was not allowed to eat. They maneuvered the magnets to her appendix after they became embedded in her large intestine.
Helen DelPrete said her husband bought the magnets for the children and didn’t notice the warning labels. She said she wasn’t aware of the concerns until after Meredith was hospitalized.
“It’s etched on the plastic container [holding the magnets], but you can’t even read it — it’s the same color as the plastic container,” she said.
So far, Meredith’s hospital charges are about $22,000, DelPrete said, but when the individual doctors’ charges are added, the total cost could be twice that figure.
She has confiscated the magnets from her children. Meredith says she still wants to play with them but wouldn’t put them near her nose or mouth.