The initial response to the question why 16-year-old Michaela Olson died on a July 1 morning run pointed to one of two factors. Either the young girl, training for soccer tryouts in the fall, succumbed to the high heat index of that muggy July day, or her prior complications with breathing, including an asthma diagnosis, had compromised her breathing.
All the while, the Olson family maintained the opinion that it had to be something else. After all, Michaela had been properly hydrated and run in warmer conditions than that July 1 morning. And her asthma diagnosis, on second look, had been incorrect. She had, in fact, been dealing with a vocal chord ailment, diagnosed that spring.
It turns out the Olson family was correct. It was neither of those things.
According to a media report filed by Fox 9 News, Michaela died of a fungal infection that caused an inflamation of the lymph node near her heart, cutting off circulation to the coronary arteries.
The infection is common. Known as histoplasmosis, the spores can be inhaled after earth is moved during construction projects as simple as rebuilding a landscaping wall, or as complex as digging a new basement for a home.
Michaela could have inhaled the spores almost anywhere during her training runs, or at any other time.
The Mayo Clinic states: Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings. Histoplasmosis is most commonly transmitted when these spores become airborne, often during cleanup or demolition projects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most are able to fight off the fungus without even knowing they took it in. In some, symptoms can appear like a lung infection or even a flu, causing a fever or some chills.
In Michaela's case, the infection was severe enough it contributed to her death. Doctors think the fungus attached to scar tissue in Michaela's lungs.
Meanwhile, the community continues to offer the Olson family its support. The St. Michael-Albertville High School girls' soccer team will present a signed jersey to the Olson family at an upcoming home game, set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29.
There has also been a web site created where friends can leave memories and offer financial support to the family to help cover costs of funeral expenses.
The memorial to Michaela, made on the pathway near Gutzwiller Park, still stands. Her parents visit daily.