04.12.2020

Doctors Thought This Canadian Teen Had E. Coli – But Then Her Organs Began Failing

When a 17-year-old from Kingston, Ontario, came to the hospital with abdominal cramps and diarrhea, doctors assumed E. Coli was the culprit. But when her organs started failing, it became clear something far worse was happening.

How doctors diagnosed this Canadian teen’s medical mystery

The patient: Claire, a 17-year-old high school student from Kingston, Ont.

The symptoms: Abdominal cramps and diarrhea

The doctor: Dr. Jocelyn Garland, 
a nephrologist at Kingston 
General Hospital

In August 2016, Claire had just returned from a family holiday in Europe and was looking forward to a few more weeks of summer vacation. But shortly after she got home, she experienced severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea that kept her confined to the house. Over the next five days, the pain intensified. When signs of rectal bleeding appeared, her parents took her to the ER at Kingston General Hospital.

Infectious disease specialists and gastroenterologists examined Claire and discovered that the wall of her colon was swollen and bleeding. Doctors suspected Claire had E. coli (she had eaten hamburgers and raw cookie dough shortly before her symptoms appeared, and either could have been the culprit). When a standard test failed to confirm the diagnosis, doctors sent stool cultures to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for more in-depth testing. The results came back positive for 
a form of the bacteria.

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