When Lavinia Kelly stopped by Valley Oak Food & Fuel gas station, all she wanted was a nacho cheese-soaked serving of Doritos. Instead, she became one of at least five people to contract botulism from the convenience store’s savory condiment.
According to HuffingtonPost.com, her quick trip to the deli area of the Walnut Grove gas station occurred after work on April 21; by April 22, the next day, Lavinia Kelly had to be rushed to Stutter Medical Center after she felt ill and complained of double vision. Though she was sent home hours later, she had no choice but to return to the hospital later that night when she began vomiting violently. The 33-year-old mother of three has been struggling in intensive care ever since she was brought to the emergency room. Several weeks into her hospitalization, and Lavinia Kelly is still unable to speak or breathe on her own because of the toxins that attacked her nerve endings.
“I’ve never seen my sister not have function of her body or be able to communicate. And I’ve never seen my sister on tubes or anything like that,” Theresa Kelly told Fox40.com.
Dawn Kelly, Lavinia Kelly’s mother, also expressed disbelief at the turn of events. “She’s been clean, clean and sober almost a year when this happened. And she was embracing life, and then all of it’s shot down ‘bam.’ So, I don’t know,” Dawn Kelly remarked.
Despite her current condition, Theresa Kelly, Dawn Kelly, and the rest of Lavinia Kelly’s family remain hopeful that she will recover. Theresa Kelly commented: “Thank God that we know she can recover. We just don’t know how long or how much effort and, and we’ve got somebody here every single morning, every single day. She’s not left, not one minute. We want to make sure that she can communicate as much as possible.”
To help pay for Lavinia Kelly’s mounting medical bills, the NYDailyNews.com reported that the family have set up a GoFundMe page. They have also filed a lawsuit against Valley Oak Food & Fuel, citing negligence, product liability, and breach of implied warranty as the grounds for their case.
Bruce Clark, an attorney from the Seattle-based food safety law firm MarlerClark LLP, stated that botulism cases from store-bought food were extremely rare. “Only human mistakes create the environment for botulinum toxin to form. We will use the lawsuit to learn more about the source of the food product that was contaminated. The source of the food product may be unrelated to the gas station; it could be a commercially made, pre-packaged item. That’s an essential question,” Clark told FoodSafetyNews.com.
On May 5, Sacramento County officials halted food sales at Valley Oak Food & Fuel by revoking the gas station’s permit to sell food and drink. Furthermore, they’ve urged anyone who has eaten at the gas station between April 23 and May 5 to see a doctor as soon as possible. (Related: Keep food safe in the summer, plus tips on avoiding foodborne illnesses year-round)
Visit HealthCoverage.news for further updates and stories on botulism cases, and more.
Fast facts on botulism
- Foodborne botulism comes from foods that have been contaminated by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. This type of bacteria thrives in oxygen-deprived conditions, such as the ones present on home-canned foods.
- Apart from canned foods, foodborne botulism can also originate from fermented, smoked, and salted fish, as well as meat products like ham and sausage.
- Symptoms of foodborne botulism in adults include drooping eyelids, double vision, slurred speech, muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing.
- After initial infection, the symptoms of foodborne botulism can take anywhere from six hours to 10 days to manifest in adults.