Houston doctor warns families about Water Balz

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - A Houston doctor and a child's family are warning parents about Water Balz, colorful gel-filled balls that start out the size of a pea then grow to be as big as a racquetball when immersed in water.

Within hours of playing with them, 8-month-old Aunraya Connolly of Humble ended up in the operating room after swallowing one.

Her grandmother, Frieda DeWeese, said, "The balls got dropped on the floor. She thought it was candy. She picked it up and she swallowed it."

DeWeese said the toy belonged to Aunraya's 3-year-old sister.

She said, "(Aunraya) was continually throwing up. She was dehydrated. She was listless, just wanted to sleep, roll up in a ball, you know, she was just totally out of it."

The family took her to Texas Children's Hospital, where she was seen by pediatric surgeon Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye.

Olutoye explained, "What makes this highly unusual actually is typically whatever you swallow would easily pass out. Water Balz are different because they come in very small, but keep growing and get much bigger, and that's what happened in this little girl."

A scope helped Olutoye spot the tiny ball.

He told Local 2, "Interestingly, you could look through the wall of the intestines and see this ball. So it was easy to see through the pink intestines that it was some blue material there and we could push it around and identify where the blockage was."

Olutoye removed the ball from Aunraya's intestine and she has since fully recovered.

But her grandmother has a stern warning for the makers of such products.

She said, "Put the warning larger, bright, colorful. It must catch people's eyes. Most people do not read the fine print. It's kind of like poison -- you don't want to have to read what the poison control phone number is after the fact."

Water Balz, made by DuneCraft, do have a warning label stating the toys are not recommended for kids under three.

DuneCraft CEO Grant Cleveland stated although he's sorry to learn of the incident, "An 8-month-old has no business being near that product. Trying to turn it in to a public risk is absurd."

Olutoye has since studied the Water Balz and issued a warning in this week's Journal of Pediatrics to make parents and health professionals aware the toys could pose a serious risk to children and pets.

Another concern the doctor expressed is that because the Water Balz do not show up on X-rays, they can be difficult to spot.

If you suspect one has been ingested, he recommends seeking medical attention immediately.

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