Food poisoning leads to nearly fatal E-coli infection - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Food poisoning leads to nearly fatal E-coli infection

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One young woman's infection with E-coli has left Mississippi health professionals with a medical mystery, and some worried if others are infected but unaware. One young woman's infection with E-coli has left Mississippi health professionals with a medical mystery, and some worried if others are infected but unaware.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

One young woman's infection with E-coli has left Mississippi health professionals with a medical mystery, and some worried if others are infected but unaware.

Never in her young 24 years of life did Katherine Byrd think she would be near death because of food poisoning. But back in the fall of 2012, she contracted a potentially fatal strain of E-coli that eventually led to kidney failure and the fight of her life.

"We were driving back from a football game at Mississippi State and I just started feeling really weird and I knew I was starting to get sick," recalls Byrd. 

The 24-year-old had been stricken with an illness that was about to take a major turn for the worse.

"I had so many doctors. They would come in and question me in the hospital room and I would tell my story over and over. And they were just trying to piece together the puzzle because nobody was really sure what was going on or how to fix it," explains Byrd. 

After about a week, specialists figured out the E-coli infection had triggered an ultra rare condition in Katherine called Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, or HUS.

Red blood cells were being rapidly destroyed in her body causing kidney failure.

"I ended up having 22 plasma transfusions and maybe three or four dialysis treatments," adds Byrd.

The need for the life saving therapy ended up in the lap of Mississippi Blood Services. Todd Sing is the Vice President of Donor Systems.

"It was really one of the only therapies they could find to control the disease the she was hit with," states Sing. "They really didn't know what was causing it so the therapy is to kind of continue to cleanse the body."

A huge complication, however, was revealed in Katherine's treatment. She is an uncommon AB positive blood type, and that is the only type of plasma she could receive.

"We have to be ready to respond to incidents like that," Sing says. 

Just one plasma transfusion for Katherine involved about two rows of these plasma units, about 20 AB positive units a day for nearly a month.

"There were times in the middle, towards the end, they came into my hospital room and said we're going to try to find more plasma. We don't know if we can," sighs Byrd. 

But Mississippi Blood Services did always find the units, thanks largely to Katherine's family and friends.

"I never thought I'd be thanking social media in this way but they created Facebook pages. They were tweeting about it," smiles Byrd. 

"We got 700 to 800 donors in a three to four week period," Sing says of the social media outreach. 

"It's hard to sit back and think about what all happened to me and I think I get so emotional because of everybody that supported me and prayed for me. My doctors and my family," Byrd says with tears of joy.

Katherine is no longer in need of plasma. She's been switched to a drug just recently approved for treatment of HUS. And while she still has a long way to go on road to recovery, her doctors expect her to eventually recover fully.

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