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Girl, 7, battles kidney failure after contracting E. coli 0157 at petting zoo

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Anyone could become sickened by E. coli bacteria, but how the body reacts to the infection can be vastly different. A Minnesota 7-year-old who fell ill after a visit to a pumpkin patch and petting zoo is now struggling with severe complications.

When 7-year-old Emma Heidish became sick earlier in October, her symptoms began with stomach cramps.

"At first, we thought it was the flu," recalled Spencer Heidish, the girl's father.

Emma Heidish was one of several who were sickened by E. coli after a visit to the petting zoo at Dehn's Pumpkins in Dayton, Minn. When her symptoms progressed to diarrhea a week and a half ago, her parents' concern grew after they started to see blood.

A blood test confirmed that the girl had a particular strain of E. coli, designated 0157, that only worsens with antibiotic treatment.

"When you get this particular bug, it's not something that you can just throw some Tylenol or Advil at," Spencer Heidish said. "There's no real quick answer for it. It has to work its way out."

Three children contracted that specific type of E. coli, and Dehn's farm has now closed off the livestock area with caution tape.

"Knowing my daughter, she probably interacted with every animal on the farm," Spencer Heidish said.

Although the two other children recovered at home, Emma Heidish has already spent 9 days in Children's Hospital, and she could stay there for two to six more weeks as she struggles with a form of kidney failure called HUS.

"She's scared out of her mind," Spenser Heidish relayed. "The toughest part for us as adults and parents is watching how scared she is."

Only a small percentage of people, as few as 5 percent, develop HUS, but Dehn's farm hasn't decided whether it will make the petting zoo available again next year, since E. coli can simply be in an animal's fur. The best protection against infection is hand-washing and using sanitizer after coming in contact with animals.

With weeks of hospitalization, the Heidish family is amassing numerous medical bills. A benefit fund has been established at Wells Fargo under the name Emma Heidish Fund. Donations can be made at any location, and checks made out to the Emma Heidish Fund can also be mailed to the following address:

Emma Heidish Fund
Wells Fargo
14325 Cedar Ave.
Apple Valley, MN 55124

Online resource:

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