SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It’s been two months since a botulism outbreak in Walnut Grove. One man died, and several others are still recovering after eating nacho cheese sauce from a local gas station.
“I feel like it’s been a long two months,” said Lavinia Kelly, who has spent the last two months in the ICU after contracting botulism in April.
The Sacramento woman is one of nine people who contracted the illness earlier this year. Kelly spent her 33rd birthday lying in a hospital bed, unable to move. Her family had to put their lives on hold, unexpectedly, and every day, they’ve kept fighting to get back to normal.
“I’ve been trying to get this recovery down, but it seems like it can’t go fast enough,” Kelly said.
On April 21, Kelly and her mother Dawn Kelly were driving home from work. They made a stop at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove. Kelly’s sister, Theresa Flores, says she was so hungry she bought the only warm food she saw: cheesy nachos.
“That’s how hungry she was; she licked the bag to get the cheese off,” Flores explained.
Days later, Kelly ended up in the hospital and tested positive for the bacteria that causes botulism. Her three children and sisters spent weeks watching her in a coma-like state, unable to move or speak. Then, an Antioch man, Martin Galindo-Larios, died after eating the same cheese at the same gas station.
“You just don’t think you’re going to wake up in the morning get botulism, eat cheese and die,” Flores said.
Back in May, Kelly’s family filed a lawsuit against the gas station and Gehl Foods, the company that manufactured the cheese. But Flores says these days she’s trying to stay focused on her sister’s recovery.
“In the last few days, she’s been using a walker, so that’s really great for her,” Flores said. “She feels so proud!”
Four months ago, Flores had just said yes to a wedding dress that Kelly had picked out. And while they never planned to battle botulism together, Kelly says this fight has only made their bond as sisters stronger.
“I’m so glad and so thankful that I’m alive today,” Kelly said.
Flores has been with her sister in the hospital since the beginning. Neither can work, and both are struggling to raise their families. Kelly is headed to a rehab facility next week to continue her recovery. Eventually, she’ll live with her sister, but doctors say it may take up to a year before Kelly is herself again.