KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — On Sept. 25, River Hefflin was a normal one-year-old, running towards his mother. Not even two months later, River has spent more than 30 days receiving treatment and re-learning to walk after complications from E. coli caused brain damage in the 16-month-old.
“Right now we’re being told by nephrology, which is his kidney specialist, that he’s going to need this infusion every two weeks for the rest of his life,” River’s mother Deidre told News Channel 11. “So that’s a lot to think about.”
River is one of the four children whom Northeast Regional Health Office leaders told us fell seriously ill from an E. coli outbreak that originated during a sibling’s field trip to the Appalachian Fairgrounds.
Regional Medical Director David Kirshke confirmed via phone today that he is still waiting on lab results before completing the investigation into the outbreak.
While officials make progress on identifying the source of the outbreak, River is working hard in therapy to recover his ability to speak and walk.
“As he’s doing therapy, it’s really neat to see him just looking over at me, like as if he’s saying, ‘Mom, are you proud of me?'” Hefflin said. “Like, look how hard I’m working.”
Hefflin confirmed that River has moved from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to a normal room at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. River will transfer to a hospital in Atlanta next week for intensive physical and neural rehab.
The family’s initial goal was to have River home in Bristol at Thanksgiving.
“We’re not going to meet that, but we would love to be home by Christmas,” Hefflin said. “But whatever it takes to get him to the point of being in the best possible situation when we do come home is what’s important.”
Though River isn’t able to form words, Hefflin says he’s more and more responsive to visitors.
“He loves seeing those familiar faces and hearing them talk and getting to interact with them, even in the limited ways that he’s able to,” Hefflin said. “It’s just amazing. Every time that someone he loves comes, we see like, a big improvement in him.”