After accidentally swallowing a button battery from a remote control on his 1st birthday, Emmett Rauch suffered life-threatening injuries that physicians didn’t think he’d survive. The battery had burned through his esophagus, leaving him unable to breathe, eat, or speak.

But Emmett, now 4 years old, pulled through after months in the intensive care unit. Now, doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are planning on using the child’s rib to rebuild his throat in a reconstructive surgery. “This will be a major step in helping little Emmett be a normal boy,” Dr. Alessandro de Alarcon, director of the Center for Pediatric Voice Disorders at Cincinnati Children’s, said in a press release. “If all goes well, the trach tube will be removed within the next year. He wants to play soccer, so we think he’ll be able to do that and play other sports if he wants, which is important for his childhood development.”

Over 3,500 people swallow button batteries annually in the U.S., according to the National Capital Poison Center, and begin burning tissue within two hours of being ingested. When Emmett got a fever after swallowing the button battery, his parents didn’t know what was wrong with him and took him to a doctor, where he was diagnosed with the flu or a reaction to a recent vaccination. But a few days later, Emmett began vomiting blood and an X-Ray showed the battery. The National Capital Poison Center notes that an electrical current can form outside the battery, creating hydroxide, which burns through tissue.

Emmett has undergone many surgeries over the past few years to attempt to repair his throat. “He’s undergone extensive swallow therapy to learn how to eat,” Emmett’s mother, Karla Rauch, said in the press release. “He is a champ now. The esophagus surgery changed his and our lives.”

The rib-graft surgery will restore function to his vocal cords by spreading them apart to create an air passage. Once the procedure is completed, Emmett will be able to attend kindergarten and start voice therapy to adapt to his new vocal cords. On their website and in a video, Emmett’s parents urge others to be aware of the dangers of button batteries, and hope parents can keep their children away from such devices.