Fish Tank Nightmare
For five years, 13-year-old Hannele Cox has been plagued by a rare, painful bacterial infection in her right hand that came from an unusual source: her fish tank!
Now, the pretty teen form Hesperia, California can barely use her hand.
"I haven't gone a day without being in pain," Hannele said.
Her nightmare started when an eight-year-old Hannele was playing with her family's fish tank.
"When I pulled my hand out kind of fast, it cut it," Hannele remembered.
Her mom, Amy, said the small scrape quickly turned into a vicious infection that lingered.
"Over the first four years she was on multiple antibiotics on and off. Medications that made her sick," said Amy.
A bacteria commonly found in fish tanks called mycobacterium marinum caused the infection. Doctors operated twice hoping to remove contaminated tissue, but the infection spread to her bone.
Now, the family fears her hand will have to be amputated. Even worse, Hannele was once a champion gymnast.
At age nine, Hannele had dreams of going to the Olympics. But the debilitating hand pain forces her to spend her days numbing it with ice, and to give up gymnastics completely.
"It's heart-wrenching when she's crying and she's in pain," Amy said.
Amy is constantly researching possible new treatments and contacting specialists, hoping to find a way to avoid amputation.
So, how can you protect yourself from this bacteria?
INSIDE EDITION talked to TV host Marc Morrone, the famed petkeeper, who says if you own a fish tank, you must exercise caution.
"To be 100 percent safe whenever you're working inside an aquarium and you take your hand out, it's always a good idea (what I do anyway), is to wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water," he said.
Hannele just visited specialists in Colorado who performed a barrage of tests, and incredibly, found that her infection is gone. So they will not need to amputate but the mystery as to why the 13-year-old still suffers from such debilitating pain continues.