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Updated 14 September 2016

SEE: The boy who swallowed 63 magnets

Five-year-old Tom O'Sullivan from Johannesburg swallowed 63 small magnet balls like sweets, and doctors had to resort to intensive surgery to remove the objects.

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A five-year-old boy from Johannesburg had a frightening experience when he swallowed 63 magnet balls, also known as Buckyballs.

According to his mother Jacqui O’Sullivan, her son Tom swallowed the balls over a short period of time on Wednesday 27 August.

Her husband, the popular radio host David O'Sullivan, came home to the child complaining of a sore throat.

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These kinds of magnet balls are usually found anti-stress toys that adults keep on their desks.

“I bought the toy as a gift for a corporate function and knew it could be dangerous to children. We thought we had thrown it away, but I think Tom got it out of a drawer,” she explains.

‘I was shocked and worried’

“I came home and my husband said that Tom was complaining that something was stuck in his throat. He drank water and it cleared. At first he didn’t want to say what he ate, but later admitted he ate four of the magnet balls,” says O’Sullivan.

"I checked the remainder of the bag and realised he must have had more, since a substantial amount was missing."

They immediately rushed Tom to the emergency room and X-rays showed he had 63 magnets in his system. “I was shocked and worried, because I knew how dangerous it could be."

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                                                     The 63 magnet balls found in Tom's body. Photo: Supplied

Doctors gave him laxatives, hoping it would clear the magnets from his system. Tom went for X-rays every day for a week, but the magnets wouldn't budge.

Unfortunately the laxatives did not get rid of the magnets in a natural way and a colonoscopy also failed.

They then tried to remove the balls through his belly button, but again doctors hit a brick wall.

"Eventually the only option was to do surgery to remove the magnet balls.” Tom was in surgery for almost three hours because the magnets had also damaged his colon and intestines.

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No symptoms

The O’Sullivans consider themselves lucky, because Tom could at least tell them what he'd done.

"I have read about other children who were younger and couldn't tell their parents what they did."

                                            Tom had to stay in hospital for almost two weeks after his surgery. Photo: Supplied.

“The scary thing is he had no symptoms. Until he went in for the surgery, he was breathing and eating normally. If he hadn't been able to tell us what he did, he would have been in serious trouble.”

O’Sullivan’s advice to other parents is to always be alert. “Think carefully about what is in your house; there are many small things that children can accidently ingest."

"Even if you don’t have children, but children frequently visit your home, you need to keep things away from them.”

xray, parenting

                                             From left to right: Tom, David and Tom's older brother Michael (12). Photo: Supplied.

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