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Linda Fullerton says she tried telling the doctor that one child had already died from E. coli. Fullerton didn't want her daughter Gabriella to die, too.
"The doctor actually rolled his eyes at me and would not test her," Fullerton recalled Monday.
Gabriella, 6, died eight days later.
On Monday, her parents criticized the care Gabriella received at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George. Her father, Quinton Fullerton, said the hospital's protocols need to change so staffers take action faster when there's a chance of childhood E. coli poisoning.
"They didn't run a single test on her at all," Quinton Fullerton said of Gabriella's June 22 visit to Dixie Regional. "Not a single test. I have her medical records."
A spokeswoman for Dixie Regional, Terri Draper, said she could not comment on Gabriella's case, due to medical privacy laws.
"In general, our emergency department team and care providers work very hard to provide treatment thoughtfully and to the best of their skill level," Draper said. "We don't turn patients away."
Gabriella was the second child from the same housing complex in Hildale to die of E. coli poisoning within about two weeks. Hildale is the traditional home of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Fullertons, who are divorced, said Monday that their families have no connection to the church.
Linda Fullerton said she, her boyfriend, his three children and Gabriella lived in an apartment in Hildale. The complex had once been a large home that was divided into apartments and rented rooms. Linda Fullerton said some occupants had been throwing dirty diapers into the yard. A dog would tear open the diapers.
Some of the other occupants of the complex tried to clean the mess, Linda Fullerton said. She said they, or their children, constitute the six cases of E. coli that the Southwest Utah Public Health Department said Monday it had confirmed in Hildale.
"The outbreak appears to be confined to a limited area of Hildale," a news release from the department said, "and risk to the larger community is not considered to be significant."
A department representative over the weekend said there's no sign of water contamination.
Linda Fullerton said she babysat one 3-year-old boy who lived upstairs. For two days as she watched him, she said, he showed symptoms including stomach pains and diarrhea. The boy, whose name Linda Fullerton declined to provide, was taken to a Las Vegas hospital. She said he died there three days later.
About a week after the boy showed symptoms, Gabriella had them, her mother said. She took Gabriella to Dixie Regional the first time. Both parents say staff poked around the girl's stomach but took no tests. Laura Fullerton said she and Gabriella were sent home after about 45 minutes.
Diane Anderson, Gabriella's paternal grandmother, said she picked up Gabriella for the weekend June 23. Gabriella had been to a hospital once, complaining of stomach pains. Anderson said Gabriella had diarrhea, and she decided to take her granddaughter to Dixie Regional again.
"She could hardly stand up when I got her to the hospital," Anderson said Monday.
Linda Fullerton met them at the hospital. This time, staff members took a culture. But Linda Fullerton said staffers sent her and Gabriella home before the results returned.
The mother decided to seek care elsewhere. She and Gabriella were on their way to Cedar City Hospital when someone from Dixie Regional called to say E. coli had been confirmed.
Staffers in Cedar City were concerned by the particular strain of E. coli, Linda Fullerton said. They arranged for an ambulance to take Gabriella to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Quinton Fullerton said the E. coli led to hemolytic-uremic syndrome, in which red blood cells are destroyed and block the kidneys' filtering system.
Two days after arriving at Primary Children's, Linda Fullerton developed symptoms and was diagnosed with E. coli. She wasn't allowed to see Gabriella for two days, she said.
Linda Fullerton was allowed to see her daughter again as Gabriella's condition deteriorated.
Anderson said she and other family members watched in the early hours of Friday as doctors and nurses tried to save Gabriella.
"They couldn't do anything," Anderson said.
Gabriella died about 6:30 a.m. Friday.
"I'm devastated at the fact that at first, everyone took this as a joke," Linda Fullerton said. "I literally had to fight for my daughter's life, and I lost it."
Linda Fullerton said she has recovered from her E. coli poisoning. The Southwest Utah Health Department on Monday didn't specify the condition of the other three people who contracted the bacteria.
"I guess the shoutout to parents would be: Be an advocate for your child," Quinton Fullerton said. "If you think she's sick and the doctors are turning you away, seek out treatment somewhere else."