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Sacramento Area Victims Contract Botulism From Gas Station Nacho Cheese

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- A Sacramento mother was one of at least five people hospitalized last month after contracting botulism from tainted nacho cheese bought at a gas station.

Theresa Kelly said she immediately knew something was wrong when her vibrant little sister Lavinia called her almost a month ago.

"My phone rings and I pick up the phone and it's her. And she can't articulate a word," explained Theresa Kelly. "And she's basically saying, 'Sister, I need you here now.'"

Lavinia was fighting to breathe and even open her eyes.

"It's really scary. And to think if her and my mother had eaten there…" Kelly said, trailing off at the thought. "My mom's older. If my mom had eaten there, I don't know if we would have lost both of them."

The "what-ifs" torturing the Kelly family all stem from Lavinia Kelly's choice to drizzle the Doritos she bought at a Walnut Grove gas station on April 21 with nacho cheese sauce from the deli area.

She is one of at least five people being treated at area hospitals after contracting botulism that Sacramento County health investigators have linked to the nacho cheese served by Valley Oak Food and Fuel.

"She's been clean and sober almost a year when this happened. And she was embracing life, said her mother, Dawn Kelly. And then all of it shot down –bam! So I don't know."

Lavinia Kelly's three children and the rest of her family have watched her struggle to regain even the slightest function as the toxins she swallowed attacked her nerve endings.

She's now spending her third week in intensive care. The family is taking legal action against the gas station.

Loved ones wonder what kind of life is ahead for Lavinia, but are thankful there is still a chance she could recover.

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