Kyle Wolden, a nine year old boy from Mount Vernon, Washington and the son of a baseball coach at Stanwood High School, got to run the bases at Safeco Field before the Seattle Mariners’ game yesterday.  45,876 fans of Seattle Mariners baseball became even bigger fans of Kyle’s, and now probably have a better understanding of what E. coli O157:H7 and hemolytic uremic syndrome are. 

Kyle fell ill from an E. coli O157:H7 infection a little over a year ago, which developed into a very severe HUS illness.  HUS is a condition that occurs in 10-15% of E. coli O157:H7 infections–most often in children and the elderly–and is characterized by kidney failure, anemia, and platelet destruction. 

HUS illnesses do not frequently result in kidney transplantation during the acute phase of the disease; more frequently, HUS causes problems for its victims later in life, when transplantation or maintenance dialysis is necessary because the kidney’s filtering units, which have no capacity to regenerate or repair themselves, can no longer perform their multifaceted job. 

HUS illnesses are a frequent cause of death in children and the elderly; and other, life-altering illnesses and conditions as well.  Stephanie Smith is another HUS victim who was sickened by E. coli O157:H7 in an outbreak linked to Cargill ground beef.  Stephanie can no longer walk.  Michael Moss, a journalist with the NY Times, just won a Pulitzer Prize for his in depth story on Stephanie’s illness and the contaminated ground beef that caused it.  Read a short summary of Stephanie’s HUS illness and resulting injuries

In Kyle’s case, the damage during the acute phase of his HUS illness was extreme.  Ultimately, he required kidney transplantation for survival; and survive he did, having already progressed to the point that he’s apparently able to compete for a spot on the Seattle Mariners’ baseball team (the M’s are 3 and 6; last in the AL West).