Modern medical rarity: Ronan teen contracts tetanus

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Since Jan. 11, 14-year-old Lucas Clark of Ronan has been in hospitals due to a tetanus infection. His mother, Kendra Schiele, has been with him and wants to remind people to make sure their vaccinations are updated. (Photo provided courtesy of the Schiele family)

Following what was initially a mysterious illness, one Ronan High School student is in the hospital due to a tetanus infection.

On Jan. 11, Lucas Clark, 14, was admitted to the emergency room at St. Luke Community Medical Center in Ronan, according to his mother, Kendra Schiele.

“They thought he was having a panic attack until he stopped breathing and was ventilated,” she said.

Lucas was transported to Community Hospital in Missoula, where he was admitted into the intensive care unit.

He experienced lung failure and violent spasms. Kendra explained that medical personnel could not diagnose Lucas, as there is no test for tetanus as well as no cure.

Lucas was then flown to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where “after many tests” came back normal, staff began treating him for tetanus with sedation and muscle relaxers.

Since his hospitalization, Lucas has built a tolerance to medications as well as being ventilated four times and nearly died three times.

“This has been a nightmare,” Kendra said.

She noted that Lucas did have his current tetanus vaccinations as recently as July 2018, and some people’s bodies do not produce antibodies to shots.

Tetanus, which is caused by bacteria, sends neuro toxin through the body, essentially shutting it down.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, tetanus can enter a person’s body through:

- Wounds contaminated with dirt, feces or spit

- Wounds caused by an object puncturing the skin, such as a nail or needle

- Burns

- Crush injuries

- Injuries with dead tissue

If anyone would like to send a donation, they can mail it to Kendra Schiele at 806 Dayton St. SW, Ronan, MT, 59864.

For more information on tetanus, visit www.cdc.gov/tetanus/about/causes-transmission.html

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