Stephanie Backus of the Fulton Sun reported today on a young boy named Caleb Ward, who is currently, hopefully, recovering from a severe hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) illness. He was infected by E. coli O157:H7. Just another reminder what this bug can do. Ms. Backus’s story about Caleb:
In late August, Caleb Ward was a normal 12-year-old trying to enjoy the last few days of summer before September and fall. He was playing on a sand barge in the Missouri River with his brother, aunt and uncle.
He had no idea that in a few short weeks, he would be in the hospital.
He certainly had no idea that in a few short weeks, he would be in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.
He had E. coli.
"This has to be reported through the health department. We started out in Columbia talking to Boone County," said Caleb’s mother, Nancy Ward. "Then it was transferred to Callaway County because that’s where we live. After talking to them for a long time and going through what he did in the days leading up to it, I think it happened while he was playing on the sand barges."
On Aug. 29, Caleb started showing disturbing signs of illness. He was vomiting, among other symptoms. Nancy called his pediatrician and they suggested taking him to the emergency room. Nancy drove her son to a Jefferson City hospital because it was closer than her pediatrician’s office in Columbia.
When he wasn’t better by the afternoon, Nancy ended up driving him to University Hospital for a specialist.
The doctors at University Hospital diagnosed the E. coli infection and a side-effect of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). HUS causes kidney failure, and Caleb would need dialysis to recover.
After seven sessions of dialysis at University Hospital, Caleb transferred to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Nancy’s sister Heidi left work to be at the hospital when Caleb arrived by helicopter.
"Because of his age and symptoms, they went ahead and put him on a full-time dialysis," Nancy said. "It was dialysis in his stomach. They would put sugar water in and it would dwell there for two hours and then drain off. They started doing it 24/7 right after we got here. They did surgery to put a port in his stomach for it.
"He was in complete kidney failure."
After 21 days in the ICU, Caleb is finally on the pediatric floor at Children’s Hospital. Both ports were removed Monday and his kidneys have recovered 90 percent function.
According to Nancy, how his body tolerates an antibiotic will be the difference between coming home this week or next.
"We’re on the up-side and almost home-free here," she said. "Day by day we keep hoping we get to come home. He has to be able to eat. He also had another complication — pancreatitis."
While the Wards are on the up-side of Caleb’s struggle with the bacterial infection, a large hill looms ahead.
The family does not have insurance. In the past, they have been able to go to the doctor and pay for visits and medication for Caleb’s asthma out of pocket.
"We have looked into private insurance in the past and it would be $400 to $500 for just one child," she said.
Nancy is a hair dresser at Salon Studio in Fulton. Since his hospitalization, she has been unable to work.
The family is applying for the Missouri Health Net to help offset some costs.
"Recuperation after he gets home will be a few more weeks because of the surgeries," she said. "He has had four surgeries in four weeks. I don’t even have a clue what I’m looking at with the hospital bill."
Callaway County residents are doing what they can to offset hospital costs for the family.
"I can’t even express in words how grateful that our small community is doing all of this," she said.
Her family has hosted fundraisers for them and raised at least $3,000.
And on Saturday, Amanda White, whom Nancy has never met, will host a kickball tournament for Caleb.
White knows other members of the Ward family and decided to host the tournament to help the family financially.
"We wanted to do a different kind of benefit," White said. "We decided on a kickball tournament. So far, we’ve got some interest. We have six teams so far, and there are 10 people to a team."
Even children in Callaway County have gotten involved in praying for Caleb.
"One of my coworker’s sons took a picture of his school picture at my station at the salon," Nancy said. "Then he sent that out to 98 of his Facebook friends for prayers for Caleb. A 14-year-old boy did that just for a friend. It’s amazing. People are amazing."
Nancy attributes it to the character of the community.
"We live in a small community and I am amazed at the several thousands of dollars people have given for us," she said. "Sometimes I don’t know that we are worthy to deserve it, but Caleb is. He is 12-years-old and has his entire life ahead of him.
"I just had faith in God and asked for his help. Even when Caleb was on a ventilator, I thought however I could get my son home, I would take what God gave me."
And Nancy is grateful to still have her son.
"I am thankful to the Lord that I still have him," she said. "It’s been a journey and I hope no other parent ever has to go through this."
Nancy said the doctors have told her there could be long-term side effects to what Caleb has experienced.
"They are very much making me aware of how serious this is. It’s a life threatening illness," she said. "Some children die from this. I’m so grateful he’s off dialysis. We are just blessed — so blessed."