Minnesota infant survives brush with botulism

The 3-month-old daughter of Wesley and Sarah Hendrickson of Brainerd, Della, was diagnosed earlier this month with infant botulism.

botulism microAfter another hospital stay at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd the next day, the Hendrickson family was airlifted to the St. Paul campus of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics later that evening. One of the doctors there had coincidentally treated two cases of infant botulism in his career beforehand and recognized the symptoms.

The doctors called a facility in California and requested them to ship a single antitoxin dose to Minnesota. That dose alone cost more than $45,000—but Della’s parents knew it could shorten her hospital stay from months to weeks.

After the dose was administered early March 13, the Hendricksons began to see a gradual improvement in Della’s condition—a breathing tube taken out one day, her ability to smile coming back another. Eventually, they moved out of the intensive care unit, to a regular hospital wing, and since then they’ve been working with rehabilitative therapists to improve Della’s functions.

Doctors project that Della will make a full recovery with no limitations, Wesley said. They might be able go home as soon as Saturday.

They can’t pin down a source for the spores. It could have been from neighbors clearing debris from the July 12 storm—or it could have been construction, or logging.

Infants can contract botulism through spores because their digestive systems produce less acid than adults—acid which would otherwise kill the toxin-producing botulism bacteria.

So far in 2016, Della has been one of two total cases of infant botulism. The other case was an infant in the metro area.

Botulism can sometimes be contracted when infants eat contaminated honey.