Lubbock family champions ‘Reese’s Law,’ placing more safety measures on button battery products
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The story of Lubbock 18-month-old Reese Hamsmith sparked a national conversation, and now her name is engraved in legislation.
President Biden signed Reese’s Law on Tuesday night, honoring Hamsmith, who died in 2020 after swallowing a button battery that slipped out of a remote control. Reese’s mother, Trista, began the effort, which can now protect millions of children.
In October of 2020, 17-month-old Reese swallowed a button battery. The battery left Reese with burns in her throat, esophagus and on her vocal cords. After being treated at UMC, she was moved to Texas Children’s in Houston where she died from her injuries just six weeks after the battery was removed.
While in the hospital, Hamsmith decided something had to be done to protect children from a similar situation.
“I believe when the Lord tells you to do something, that you’re obedient, that’s all that’s asked of us. When it was placed on me, I ran with it, and to be honest, I never doubted. I got frustrated along the way, but I never doubted that it would happen. I knew it would,” Hamsmith said.
In September 2021, Representative Jodey Arrington joined with Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly to introduce Reese’s Law to the US House of Representatives. The House passed the law in July of this year. It was then passed by the Senate in August.
In a press conference in Washington, D. C. when the bill was introduced, Rep. Arrington said this about Trista’s efforts, “There’s not a greater force in all of the world, than a mother on a mission.”
Her mission became Reese’s Purpose, an organization dedicated to protecting children from hidden dangers, like a button battery. After nearly two years, her team’s hard work paid off.
“Once it came down and we got that official, it was just pure relief and excitement and joy. The impact on other families that, I don’t want other families to know what we know. Grief is hard and I definitely put aside a lot of that to focus on this, but I do think it was a good thing for me and my family, just protecting the kids is important,” Hamsmith said.
Reese’s Law requires manufacturers to to use child resistant packaging for products that contain button batteries and add warning labels that clearly alert consumers to the danger if swallowed. Hamsmith says the financial cost won’t be much, and isn’t worth what could happen.
“How much money would you put on your child’s life?” she said.
Hamsmith always imagined championing this change with Reese by her side. Now, her name lives on in national law.
“I guess that kind of takes the place a little bit of her being there, for it to be named after her, but in all honesty, there’s so many children that have been affected, it honors all of them.”
More than 3,500 people swallow button batteries every year in the U. S. While Hamsmith led the charge to advocate for the law, she didn’t work alone. Along with legislators, she says she met many others who became the bill’s fiercest advocates.
“It wasn’t just people that were like, oh, we’re going to do this. They were genuinely passionate about this bill,” Hamsmith said.
Now that the bill is law, Hamsmith says she hasn’t found her new normal yet. She still wants to fight for child safety, and has a few projects already in mind. Her favorite job, though, is being a mom to 10-year-old Blake and newborn Brody.
“We were a girl family, so having a boy has been fun and different and an experience for all of us. And I do feel like it’s brought a little bit of joy back in areas that were missing, by no means a replacement but, you know, children are a joy and he is.”
Hamsmith says it will take about a year to implement this new law, so parents still need to be very aware about where button batteries are in their homes, the products that use them and how they are disposed.
Congressman Arrington provided this statement about the law:
“I am thankful that Congress came together to pass Reese’s Law. Over the last several years, we’ve seen an over 90% increase in ER visits from children who have swallowed button batteries posing significant health and safety risks to vulnerable toddlers,” said Rep. Arrington.
”Reese’s Law will enhance safeguards for numerous devices, which will save lives and spare families the same suffering the Hamsmith family endured. I am honored to partner with Trista Hamsmith — a strong West Texas woman - and a “mom on a mission” - to play a small role in Reese’s Purpose.”
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