SALT LAKE CITY — Six-year-old Mikah Arvidson had surgery Tuesday at Primary Children's Hospital after he swallowed part of a popular fidget toy made of magnets.
This was the third surgery in a little over a week to repair the damage to his intestines. Now his parents want everyone to be aware of the big dangers of the small toys.
From his hospital bed Monday, Mikah had a heartfelt warning. "I want you guys to be safe," he said. "If you swallow some magnets, you might feel bad and come here or come somewhere else. But if you come here, you'll be here for a long time."
Fidget toys come in all sizes and different colors. They are marketed for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Because fidget spinners were banned in school, Blake and Aubrey Arvidson bought the magnet set for their older son who has ADHD. It came in a pack of nearly 200 small pieces that came in the shape of a small pink cube.
The Arvidsons said Mikah, their youngest son, started having pain on Halloween and didn't want to go trick-or-treating.
"It was odd because he had been looking forward to wearing his costume," Aubrey Arvidson said. "But he didn't feel really well. He was just sort of lying on the stairs."
His parents thought he caught the 24-hour stomach bug that had been going around their neighborhood, but 24 hours later he was still not feeling well.
"He just didn't feel well and nauseous and that lasted for a couple of days," Blake Arvidson said.
"He was just lying on the bathroom floor (vomiting every 20 minutes)," she said. "The pain that was increasing in his abdomen was just a huge red flag for me. … He just kept asking me to take away his pain, and I didn't know what was going on."
Mikah could not keep down food or water and lost the strength to walk.
On Nov. 3, his parents took him to the emergency room at Primary Children's Hospital where doctors rushed to find out what was causing Mikah's symptoms. They ran bloodwork, gave Mikah pain medication and did an X-ray.
"When they took the X-rays, they thought he had maybe a metal zipper or something in his pants because it was showing the magnets on the X-ray. But we didn't know he had swallowed them, and he didn't know he'd swallowed them," she said.
There they were — 14 magnets, each the size of a pinhead, clumped together in his intestines and causing life-threatening injuries. Doctors rushed Mikah into an emergency surgery to remove them and to repair the damage.
"The surgeon said they perforated his intestines and there was bile everywhere," Aubrey Arvidson said. "We were just like, 'What?'"
Mikah eventually remembered how they got there. He told his parents he put the cube of magnets in his mouth to hide them from his older brother. He accidentally swallowed some but didn't think anything of it.
"It was pretty shocking that something so small and looks so harmless could cause so much damage," his father said.
Mikah's mother said her son continues to fight the damage caused by the magnets.
"We don't want other families to have to go through what we did, and they are definitely not for kids," she said Monday.
The sentiment was echoed by her son. "I want kids to be safe," Mikah said.
Mikah hasn't been able to eat or drink since his surgery. Doctors hope to start giving him food this week. As for his hospital stay, they are just taking it day by day.
Family friends have set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical bills.
With the holidays coming up, people will be out buying gifts for kids, family and friends. Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, said when purchasing items, people should be mindful of the intended recipient.
"Magnets that have multiple pieces, like 100 pieces, and I'm not sure that you would ever know that one of those is missing if, in fact, you buy that for an older child at home," she said.
She said the tiny magnets can be dangerous for little children.
"The challenge is this: If you have little kids that are getting into the older brother's or sister's toys, then you are still going to have a problem. So if those toys are played with when the child is not around and everything is picked up, then I think you should be OK. But I think you should be mindful of your little ones."