Doralice Carneiro Sobreira Goes spent a year in the hospital after eating expired pesto from a local farmer’s market
A Brazilian woman who ate expired pesto from a farmer’s market ended up in the hospital for a year, fighting a botulism infection that left her temporarily paralyzed.
Doralice Carneiro Sobreira Goes, 47, bought the pesto from a local farmer’s market in Brazil in December 2021, but didn’t eat it until the following month, according to Jam Press, The Independent reports.
“The pesto didn’t have an expiration date, [the shopkeeper] didn’t give me storage instructions either but I was a frequent customer,” Goes told the outlet.
The pesto didn’t appear spoiled — and was actually “delicious,” she said — but she started feeling ill the next day.
“My body didn’t feel right, my breathing had gotten worse, and my tongue felt like it was tingling,” said Goes, who added that she slept for 11 hours.
She drove herself to the hospital, but once she parked the car, Goes said, “my body stopped working.”
“I couldn’t move my body so I threw myself out of the car,” she said, according to The Independent. “It was then I saw an employee with a wheelchair, so I shouted, to which they then came over and helped me into it.”
By the time Goes was examined by doctors, she was vomiting and struggling to breathe. Goes was nearly entirely paralyzed, only able to move two toes.
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Doctors diagnosed her with botulism, and pointed to the homemade pesto as the source of her infection.
Botulism is a “rare but serious” condition caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, according to the Mayo Clinic, which points out that canned food is often a vector for the illness.
“The harmful bacteria thrive and make the toxin in environments with little oxygen, such as in home-canned food,” the Mayo Clinic says.
Depending on how much toxin was consumed, symptoms may start within a few hours, and include trouble swallowing or speaking, nausea, trouble breathing, and blurred vision.
Although antitoxins can help limit the damage botulism does, “recovery may take months and typically involves extended rehabilitation therapy,” the Mayo Clinic says.
For Goes, recovery included a year in the hospital, where she says, “I was…given dry compressions and electroshocks to relieve chronic pain. When I got more strength in my upper body, I also adapted [to] playing table tennis.”
“I can now urinate by myself and feed myself,” she adds,
And while walking on her own is hard — “I have the help of a walker to help me get around,” Goes says — “I have been breathing without help for nine months, which is a good sign.”
To reduce your chances of getting food-borne botulism, the CDC recommends refrigerating homemade oils — and throwing away any unused portions after four days.
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