Sacramento County health officials have confirmed nine cases of botulism in patients who ate at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station with all nine patients still hospitalized. Health officials believe the outbreak is linked to nacho cheese sauce that was served at the station, but the exact cause of the poisoning is still under investigation.
On victim, Lavinia Kelly, who is turning 33 today, was driving home from work as an inventory manager on April 21 when she pulled over at the gas station’s small market for a snack. She picked up a bag of Doritos chips and drizzled them with nacho-cheese sauce, said her partner, Ricky Torres.
Within hours, the usually upbeat mother of three felt fatigued, he said. The next morning she complained of double vision and went to Sutter Medical Center, but was sent home hours later. By that evening, she was vomiting and having difficulty breathing, Torres said. He drove her back to the emergency room.
The next day, doctors ventilated Kelly and admitted her to the intensive care unit, where she’s been since. The neurotoxins have affected her motor control to the point that she can’t open her eyes, Torres said. When Kelly wants to see who has entered the room, he and other loved ones lift her eyelids open, sometimes using tape to keep them up.
According to the lawsuit we filed yesterday, Lavinia Kelly remains partially paralyzed and on a ventilator as her family and friends wonder whether this will be her last birthday. She had no way of knowing when she stopped for a snack of chips and cheese sauce on the way home from work on April 21 that she would be admitted to an intensive care unit less than 48 hours later.
“She has remained in intensive care ever since, unable to move much, speak, breathe on her own, or open her eyes. Family members must pull her eyelids up to enable her to see at all,” according to the civil lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California in Sacramento County.
“Lavinia Kelly experiences significant pain all over her body constantly. She is receiving methadone and Neurontin for pain control. (Her) medical condition is poor, and her prognosis uncertain.”
Botulism, which can be fatal can be caused by eating foods that have been contaminated with botulinum toxin, often homemade items that have been improperly canned, preserved, or fermented, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include double vision, slurred speech and muscle weakness. If left untreated, botulism can cause paralysis of the respiratory and other muscles.