Days after visiting a petting zoo at a pumpkin patch before Halloween, Emma Heidish was in the hospital. Almost a month later, her family is grateful she will spend Thanksgiving at home.
Heidish was one of 3 people who got sick after visiting Dehn's Pumpkins in Dayton, Minn., but while the others were able to recover at home, her case was severe.
Like many 7-year-olds, Heidish loves animals, but after what she's endured, her opinions about her favorite farm animals have changed.
"They are the ones that made me sick!" she explained.
Within days of visiting the pumpkin patch in mid-October, stomach cramps and diarrhea landed Heidish in the intensive care unit.
"Everything happened really quick," Spencer Heidish recalled.
The blood caused her parents to become concerned, and tests found she had a particular strain of the bacteria -- E. coli 0157 -- that is made worse by antibiotics.
For a month, the little girl fought through a rare form of kidney failure that required her to undergo surgery and near-constant dialysis because her digestive system basically shut down.
"When she did finally go, we were going to do a pee-pee dance, and we did when that day came," Spencer Heidish said.
That was the first real sign that the 7-year-old's kidneys were working again. Now, she's out of the hospital and is attending half-days of school -- but she's still not out of the woods.
"She's on a strict diet right now," said Stephanie Heidish. "Low phosphorus low potassium, low sodium --and still on blood pressure medicine."
It's not yet known whether she'll face long-term health issues connected to the illness.
The family is also bracing for the bill. Even though they have health insurance, they're not sure what a month-long stay in the ICU will cost them. Friends have organized two fundraisers to offset the coasts and have established a fund for the family.
A benefit fund has been established at Wells Fargo under the name Emma Heidish Fund. Donations can be made at any branch, and checks made out to the Emma Heidish Fund can also be mailed to the following address:
Emma Heidish Fund
14325 Cedar Ave.
Apple Valley, MN 55124
FUNDRAISERS FOR EMMA
What: ZUMBATHON for Emma
When: Dec. 1, from 3:30 -5 p.m.
Where: Gleasons Gymnastics School
2015 Silver Bell Rd.
Eagan, MN 55122
The Zumbathon will involve more than 7 Zumba instructors, a live DJ, and guest dancers. Kids are encouraged to come along for their own Zumba classes.
What: Emma's Fund Fest
When: Dec. 7
Where: Diamond Path Elementary
14455 Diamond Path
Apple Valley, MN 55124
Anyone can come donate and be one of Emma's Angels. The benefit is family friendly and will include food, raffles, a bake sale and fun for the kids. Anyone who would like to donate items for the raffle or would like to volunteer at the benefit is asked to email Christie and Dawn at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the benefit's and more ways that you can help visit: www.emmasfund.com
As for Dehn's farm, the owners still aren't sure what they'll do with the livestock next year because E. coli can simply be in an animal's fur or the pen they're kept in, but the Heidish family says they just want to stress the importance of hand washing.