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'Doctors are still stunned': How did foreign bacteria leave a Texas girl with brain damage?

July 11, 2021

For most of the past six weeks, 4-year-old Lylah Baker has been struggling to survive an infection that doctors at Children’s Medical Center Dallas couldn’t beat back. It started out like a typical stomach bug, but within days tore through her body and into her brain.

Lylah’s family told me that doctors thought she had a rare autoimmune disorder that can be triggered by an infection. They put a tube down her throat to help her breathe. They gave her CT and MRI scans, and hooked her to machines to filter and replace her blood. They administered steroids and multiple antibiotics. She still wasn’t getting any better. “They were even treating her for rabies, just to be cautious, even though she had never been bitten,” said Lylah’s aunt, Ashley Kennon, who is a nurse.

Eventually a test found an organism growing in Lylah’s blood that initially eluded identification. It was only after a neurosurgeon took a small sample from Lylah’s brain that the hospital was able to confirm this curly haired little girl from a small Texas town had been infected with deadly foreign bacteria that aren’t supposed to be sickening people in the United States. “I think the doctors are still stunned. Nobody expected this,” Kennon told me.

Read more at USA TODAY, or in this pdf of the article.

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