DENVER (CBS4) – A Colorado baby is breathing easier while recovering from a rare disease. The 5-month-old has infant botulism, which can be life threatening.

The good news is the Keona Hinkel is getting better every day. She is off a ventilator and will return home in just a week or two after a month in the hospital.

Keona’s mother, Kari Hinkel, is relieved at the prognosis since it has been a frightening ordeal for the entire family. She is happy to have her little girl back in her arms.

“We love these times together snuggling in our rocking chair,” said Hinkel.

On Jan. 1 Keona wasn’t eating like normal and she seemed very tired. Her mother took Keona to the pediatrician. He sent them to the emergency room. There Keona stopped breathing, was incubated and then airlifted to the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

A pediatric neurologist was the first to suspect infant botulism, a very rare but very serious disease. The treatment, botulism immune globulin, had to be flown in from California.

Keona has been improving since she started the medication on Jan. 4. She is expected to make a full recovery.

Keona is breathing on her own and is able to take a bottle.

“All the doctors are really happy with her progress,” said Hinkel.

Her doctors believe she will return to her usual self in just a matter of weeks.

“As the nerves kind of repair themselves over the next few months she’s going to get back to being a normal, healthy kid,” said Rocky Mtn. Hospital for Children Dr. Jerry Williams.

Although she is a little weak and will need some therapy to get back on track with her development, her family is pleased with how far she has come. Her mother has seen her smile, the best sign that the worst is over.

“We’re nearing the end of our stay here, I can feel it and I’m just really happy she’s going to be okay after all of this,” said Hinkel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 85 cases in 2010 and 84 in 2009.

The family wants people to know that Keona could have gotten sick from indirect contact with honey or possibly exposure to dirt and dust at a home under renovation. Both may contain the bacteria. They want parents to be aware of the danger and never feed infants under a year honey or corn syrup.

LINK: Keona’s Facebook Page

Make donations at or give at a Wells Fargo Bank under the name of Keona Hinkel.


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