‘Reese’s Law’ signed in honor of toddler who died after swallowing a battery

“It just made me angry that they are so easily accessible and it’s such an easy fix. It was beyond time to get something done.”
18-month-old Reese Hamsmith died after swallowing a button battery. Now, a new law is in place...
18-month-old Reese Hamsmith died after swallowing a button battery. Now, a new law is in place to prevent children from getting ahold of the batteries.(Trista Hamsmith)
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 12:40 PM PDT
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Reese Hamsmith had a big smile. She was a sassy, spunky toddler, according to her mom, Trista Hamsmith. “We knew that she’d do big, big things,” Hamsmith said. “I never imagined how big.”

We have to go back to 2020. Reese woke up one morning at her home in Texas, snotty, stuffy, and not acting like herself. “I took her to the pediatrician immediately and had her checked out,” Hamsmith said. Reese was diagnosed with croup, but within a day, her family would find out they were facing an entirely different diagnosis.

“We noticed a button battery missing in our home and so we rushed to the ER,” Hamsmith said. Tests confirmed Reese had swallowed the button cell battery from a TV remote. The electrical current and the chemicals burned a hole through her esophagus and trachea. “We had countless scopes, surgeries, scans, and sedation,” Hamsmith said. “It was 47 days from the day it started until the day she passed.”

Reese was 18 months old. Her life and her death inspired the non-profit Reese’s Purpose, and her mom’s mission to protect other children from incidents involving button batteries. For more than a year, Hamsmith has been pushing lawmakers to pass Reese’s law, to require secured compartments for button cell and coin batteries and new warning labels. “It just made me angry that they are so easily accessible and it’s such an easy fix,” she said. “It was beyond time to get something done.”

“We recognize that the button batteries are an issue and we have safely enclosed them in toys,” Hamsmith added. “The thing is, our children live in our homes too with other products that are not toys, and those aren’t secured.”

Reese’s Law was signed by President Joe Biden this week. Nancy Cowles, the executive director of Kids in Danger, an organization that works to promote product safety for children, says the new law will save lives. “There are around 3,500 incidents a year in which children, usually children, swallow button batteries. Not all of those result in serious injury, but many of them do.”

Under the new law, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will be responsible to establish new product safety standards for batteries that pose an ingestion hazard. Button and coin cell batteries that are sold separately must also comply with federal child-resistant packaging rules.

“Even once the law is in place, there will still be the potential for batteries to be loose. Always keep batteries away from children,” Cowles said. “Make sure that whatever compartment they’re in your electronic device doesn’t open easily. If you do suspect that your child might have swallowed one, immediately call poison control or take your child to the emergency department.”

While they were in the hospital, Hamsmith imagined a different world. “I envisioned Reese by my side at the end of it, years later, still advocating,” she said. “It didn’t turn out like we wanted to have Reese by my side, but since the Lord had placed that on me so early, I just knew that it was something I needed to continue on for her, her legacy, and most importantly the other children out there being affected by this.” It’s the legacy of a little girl, who’s doing those big things her family always knew she would.