A Sea King’s Search for Strength

Gonzales poses. (Photo courtesy of Tally Gonzales)

Gonzales poses. (Photo courtesy of Tally Gonzales)


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Gonzales poses. (Photo courtesy of Tally Gonzales)

As PVHS senior Tally Gonzales began tackling her college essays this past summer, something she was prompted to ponder time and time again was a facet of her identity that was unique to her.

While plenty of distinct personality traits came to mind, the one Gonzalez latched onto was her strength. And it’s a good thing she was born with this strength, because Gonzalez had to use it to fight an illness she was diagnosed with eight months later: infant botulism.

Infant botulism induces paralysis which can cause difficulty breathing, meaning this illness is potentially fatal to those who suffer from it.

Fewer than 100 cases occur each year, which is why doctors couldn’t immediately identify what Gonzalez’s symptoms – lethargy, inability to hold her head up, and difficulty nursing – indicated.

X-rays, spinal taps, and MRI tests were administered with no apparent conclusion, causing Gonzalez to end up with a feeding tube and an IV in her scalp, as her other veins’ functionality was incomparable.

If Gonzalez’s condition continued to progressively worsen, her mother, Anne Gonzales, was informed that Gonzalez would be on a ventilator.

“I was heartbroken and the whole family was terrified,” Mrs. Gonzales said.

“One nurse labeled Tally as ‘The Mystery Baby’ and I wanted to scream bloody murder at her.”

However, after the intense research procured by her doctors, combined with the unprecedented strength shown by Gonzalez herself, a miracle seemed to literally fling itself through the doors of Gonzalez’s hospital room.

As confirmed by UC Berkeley’s head of research, Gonzalez’s mystery illness was in fact, infant botulism.

And coincidentally enough, a study entitled “Baby Big” was being conducted at the time of Gonzalez’s diagnosis.

“We had to decide whether or not we should admit her to the study,” Mrs. Gonzales said.

“We were assured that there was no downside, so we had to take the risk,” she said.

After a slow but sure climb up the ladder to recovery, this risk paid off.

While she was much too young to recall the experience now, Gonzalez continually harnesses and fosters the strength she cultivated as she fought her illness.

Today, that’s the attribute many admire most about her. Whether channeling her strength into playing sports, using it as fuel when taking a risk on a film project, or projecting it as she stands up for a friend, Gonzalez’s courage and fortitude have shaped her into the creative, independent girl she’s become.

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