It was the day before Cole Hansberger’s first birthday and he’d suddenly lost the ability to walk or crawl.

As Fox 10 News reports, Cole’s parents watched with increasing concern as their son transformed from a healthy, active baby to one who could barely move.

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Jackie Hansberger, Cole’s mother, told Fox 10 they thought at first that Cole had been injured:

“We knew something was off, maybe he fell, hurt himself. He couldn’t hold his head up. He couldn’t sit up. He was completely paralyzed.”

The mom of two took her toddler to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with infant botulism. They immediately began treating Cole, but doctors say the infant may be in for a difficult fight.

Jackie said that her son is still on a ventilator and came frighteningly close to death this week:

“He coded. His pulse went to 20, and they had to resuscitate him.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, infant botulism is caused by an organism that releases botulism spores. Those spores can be found in honey, corn syrup, and contaminated soil.

Doctors speculate that in Cole’s situation, the illness may have been caused by the construction sites near his home in Peoria, Arizona. As one doctor explained:

“He ate something. Somehow the spore got inside of his GI tract. How did that happen? […] There’s a lot of construction going on in the Valley. Anytime there’s construction, dirt gets stirred up in the air and somehow that got inside of his system. The spore starts producing an endotoxin which attacks your nervous system.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can take anywhere from three to 30 days for symptoms of infant botulism to appear. Symptoms include weakness or floppiness, slow feeding, constipation, a diminished gag reflex, weaker cries, and facial paralysis.

To prevent infant botulism, the AAP recommends boiling foods for at least 10 minutes to eliminate toxins, discarding food that appears spoiled (especially bulging cans or jars), and not giving honey to children under one year of age.

Jackie told The Arizona Republic she hasn’t left her son’s side since he entered the hospital on August 6:

“I refuse to leave his bedside. Every day I sit, stare at the monitor all day, just to make sure my son’s breathing and he’s OK.”

Cole’s 4-year-old brother is at home with their father, and the family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Cole’s treatment. Though the toddler is very ill and will need months of physical therapy, they hope he will lead a normal life again.

Jackie is now urging parents to learn more about infant botulism and its causes. As she told the Republic, her son’s illness has been a frightening experience.

She admitted: “I would pay a million dollars just to hear my son cry right now. I haven’t held him in over a week.”

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