Siblings on road to recovery after bacterial infection

Connor and Carissa Groves during their hospital stay this summer. (submitted photo)

The 8-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son of Cassie and Brandon Groves of Waterloo are finally returning to good health after a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria resulted in lengthy hospital stays for both this summer.

To help the family offset some of the medical bills associated with this difficult time, friends and relatives have organized a couple of upcoming fundraisers.

The O157:H7 E. coli strain causes sickness through food poisoning. It leads to severe diarrhea and in serious cases can cause kidney failure. The foods most commonly contaminated

with this strain of E.coli are undercooked or contaminated ground beef and ground pork.

This particular strain that struck the young Groves is very aggressive and only a small amount of the bacteria can cause severe illness.

Little Carissa Groves was infected with this particular E. coli strain in early July. It started with severe abdominal distress, Cassie Groves said.

“We were at Cardinal Glennon for 35 days straight,” Cassie Groves said. “She had complete kidney failure and was on dialysis for two weeks. It’s pretty crazy. I almost lost my daughter.”

Hemolytic uremic syndrome usually occurs when an infection in the digestive system produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells. It is the most common cause of kidney failure in children. By July 17, Carissa was down to 13 percent kidney function and had to have daily dialysis treatments.

Around this time, Carissa’s 9-year-old brother, Connor, started to show the same E. coli symptoms.

Connor suffered through pain of his own as he developed colitis, which is caused by the same strain of E. coli. He was also hospitalized, although he improved quickly and was sent home July 26. But a few days later, his symptoms returned and he was back at Cardinal Glennon.

Cassie said her son’s kidney function dropped to 37 percent at its worst, but began to rise and was back to near normal fairly quickly.

“His toxin released slowly, and his kidney function got back up on its own,” she said.

Connor was released from the hospital on Aug. 11, and Carissa was finally out of the hospital on Aug. 16 — more than a month after first being admitted.

“Our daughter received platelet transfusions and both children received blood transfusions,” Cassie offered.

Today, the siblings are still taking blood pressure medication and have sodium restrictions as a result of their ordeal, but life is returning closer to normal.

Fortunately, the youngest of the three Groves children, 6-year-old Collin, did not become infected with E. coli.

Cassie said she is not embarrassed about telling her family’s story.

I’m more concerned with the safety of the community,” she said.

Cassie said her daughter had attended a birthday pool party, eaten at an area fast food restaurant, and had been other places in public around the time she became infected.

Worried that others in the community may have been or could be exposed to this E. coli strain just like her children, Cassie said she contacted the Monroe County Health Department to alert them of the situation.

She also contacted the state health department, which said there was another case of this same E. coli strain in central Illinois, but the department could not disclose specifics.

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 prevents him from discussing any specific case. But, in general, with any confirmed E. coli case in this county, his office would conduct an initial investigation and report to the state.

“We do not conduct a full blown investigation until two unrelated cases are confirmed,” Wagner said. “At that point, the state health department would be called in for assistance in the investigation, as they have access to any additional cases nationwide and expertise in conducting such investigations.”

Wagner added there have been a total of four reported E. coli cases locally over the past couple of years.

“We have had no cases that involved a full investigation,” he said.

How to help

To assist the Groves family, friend Lori Weltig is hosting an online Pampered Chef party fundraiser to help with medical expenses. The fundraiser runs through Sunday, Sept. 15.

“All the profits (my commission) are being donated directly to the family to help with any financial needs they may have,” Weltig said.

Weltig credited family relatives Jennifer and Kim Groves for helping to spread the word about this fundraiser through Facebook, e-mail and word of mouth.

Visit to shop online, or call Weltig directly at 618-509-1353.

The family and friends of the Groves family are also putting together a quarter auction fundraiser to be held Sunday, Oct. 6, at the New Baden American Legion Hall.

“These poor children were in so much pain for so long, but showed extreme bravery and courage throughout this ordeal,” said Jenn Taylor Spaeth, a cousin of Cassie Groves.

For information or to donate, contact Spaeth at 618-954-9567 or at

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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