MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Inside the University of Minnesota's Masonic Children's Hospital, heartbreak hopes for a miracle.
It's where two siblings, Kade and Kallan Maresh from Maple Lake, were rushed after being infected with a serious strain of E. coli bacteria.
The family's Caring Bridge site broke the sad news on Sunday when it reported that Kallan lost her battle with the deadly strain.
She died one week after shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 raced through her young body.
"It's very serious, potentially fatal," says George Canas, M.D., with Kidney Specialists of Minnesota.
Dr. Canas is not associated with the children's care -- but as a nephrologist, he is acutely aware of the danger presented by this strain of E. coli to organs like the kidneys. The damage is done when shiga toxins target tiny blood vessels and the body's ability to transfer oxygen in red blood cells.
"This can happen anywhere. It happens in the heart, happens in the brain, the gut, the liver and the pancreas," said Dr. Canas.
The state Health Department is investigating where the E. coli exposure was. Possibly, something as simple as a trip to a petting zoo and transferring the bacteria onto the child's hands and their mouth. It's also common to acquire an exposure by eating unsanitary meat, produce or dairy.
"Us consuming food that has been in contact with feces from cattle," Dr. Canas adds.
Roughly 10 to 15 percent of children exposed to the E. coli strain will see their condition worsen even after seeking medical care. It can get to the point where children like Kallan develop a Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS disorder. That's where blood vessels swell, starving organs of oxygen.
"And as a result you can have multi-organ systems failing caring for a patient in an intensive care unit," said Dr. Canas.
The severe case eventually claimed Kallan's life just a week after she was rushed to Masonic Children's Hospital. Fortunately, her older brother, Kade, continues his fight, although his situation remains extremely serious.
Meantime, health experts say food preparation and hand washing can't be stressed enough. Both are vital steps to heading off this unthinkable heartache.
If you would like to send a message of support to the family, click here to visit the Caring Bridge site.
The family also has a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses.
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