By Katie Clunn, Mother

We were typical first-time parents. Anything we thought could potentially be a hazard to our beautiful baby girl, was either thrown away or locked away. Covers on all outlets, even ones she couldn’t reach for another 5 years. Gate to keep her out of the kitchen. Locks on the oven and fridge doors just in case. I wouldn’t even let my husband have peanut butter in our house since allergies run in my family. Her first Christmas she was so young she couldn’t move without our help. But her second, she was a curious 17-month-old when we decorated. We tied the tree to the banister so she couldn’t pull it over, used all plastic ornaments on the lower half of the tree, and any breakable ones were near the top where she couldn’t reach. Everything was great. Or so we thought.

We had overlooked one small detail. We had hung our ornaments with the same hooks we had used in all the years previous. What was originally a nice relaxing evening quickly turned to a trip to the ER. I was having a nice relaxing bath listening to my husband and daughter playing downstairs. That’s when I heard Danika cough and gag in a way I had never heard before. Dan is a level 2 first aid attendant and quickly checked her mouth with a finger sweep. Danika let out a cry and her eyes started to water. That’s when he noticed she had grabbed two ornaments off the tree and one was now missing a hook. He quickly brought her upstairs to me, where she laughed and giggled a “hi mama” while I was climbing out of the tub. He told me he thought she might have swallowed a hook, but she was acting totally normal so I thought he was just overreacting.

My daughter ate an ornament hook

Playing on the safe side, we thought we would go to the ER and get it checked out. We figured we would be ushered in pretty quickly under the circumstances. We were right. She was quickly taken to the back where they sent us for an X-ray. After the x-ray, I had borrowed a room and changed her. I walked back to the nurses’ station to thank them, and let them know I was done when I saw a crowd of doctors and nurses all standing around a computer monitor. It was like they sensed me; they all turned and looked at me in silence with faces ranging from disbelief to slight amusement. I said to them “You’ve got to be kidding me” and they turned the monitor towards me. I swear the hook had grown from an inch and a half to 3 feet long, it looked huge in her tiny throat.

We were quickly told to get in our car and take her to Children’s Hospital, as our hospital wasn’t equipped to handle such a tiny patient. Since she had been running around the ER and playing for the last 3 or so hours, they figured it wasn’t going anywhere, and her car seat would keep her nice and still on the way. She slept. We worried.

We arrived and we were quickly taken back to meet the surgeon who would be scoping her to take it out. The reality of the severity of the situation was becoming even more obvious. We had been taken in before the girl on the stretcher in the neck brace who came in on an ambulance moments before us. The surgeon warned us, it could puncture her and cause massive problems. I just kept reminding myself, and my husband, we were in the best place possible. I figure they probably do a dozen surgeries a day on removing random objects from random “hiding places” as seen by a toddler.

Two hours later, with a drowsy but still awake toddler, a new teddy bear from the nurses, and a specimen cup with the famous hook inside, we were headed home. Danika slept fine, having no idea the ordeal she just went thru. She was even up at 7 am, even though she had stayed up till 2 am and had had anesthesia. We, on the other hand, didn’t fall asleep till probably 4-5 am after trying to come down from the adrenaline of the last 6 hours. The next morning she woke with a “whiskey voice” and she wasn’t into eating much other than nursing and soft foods, but was still her happy, energetic self.

The first task of the morning, removing all the hooks and throwing them out, switching to thread, and posting the x-ray and our story on every single mommy and news site we could think of. We had our house baby-proofed to the max, if we had overlooked this, others must have, or might later overlook it too. At the risk of looking like terrible parents, we decided to accept an offer to be featured on Global TV, wanting to get this out to as many people as possible. Seeing a preview for our story during Oprah was shocking! We still have people come up to us in our town. Danika isn’t a very common name, and there aren’t many here. When we introduce her, we’ve been asked: “The Danika that swallowed the hook!?” I’d rather we were “famous” for winning the lottery, but I hope at least our story has prevented other families from having to go through such an event.

Please change your hooks to thread or ribbons. Not only is this a hazard to babies, but it’s also a hazard to pets. Tinsel is another very bad decoration…as we heard in the ER. We now have a 6-month-old son, and we just finished checking the tree AGAIN, for the 3rd year in a row, to make sure we didn’t miss one hanging somewhere on the branches!