Losing your beloved son at the young age of 24 is devastating.
It leaves a huge hole in your heart and life that can’t ever be filled.
That’s what Christine Chatfield lives with every day since her once dynamic, smart, loving, and funny son, Richard, took his last breath on October 19, 2010. Before his death, Richard suffered severe, horrific health consequences after contracting E. coli 0157:H7.
In today’s interview with one of Stop Foodborne Illness’ most passionate and generous donors, you’ll learn about Christine Chatfield and why she feels giving to our cause is so meaningful. It’s her way of paying tribute to Richard’s beautiful life and helping to make sure others don’t suffer the same awful, life-crushing fate.
Q: Before you became involved with STOP Foodborne Illness, what was life like for you?
A: My day-to-day family life was pretty normal.
I’m from England and am married to an American military member, so we moved around quite a bit. We lived in many different states and Italy, too. I enjoyed the pace of our life and took great pride in being a devoted wife and loving mother to our son, Richard.
Q: When did you first learn about Stop Foodborne Illness?
A: When Richard fell ill from E. coli O157:H7 and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in 2002, I began research on the internet looking for help. I read about the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak and how it had killed four children and sickened hundreds of others (mainly kids). As I took in how life-altering this condition could be for my Richard, my heart sank. Thankfully, I also found STOP’s website.
Pouring over the stories of victims and loved ones was heart-tugging yet also comforting and reassuring. The plethora of helpful information and resources on the site was also a godsend. I felt less alone and gained strength from knowing I had a community of people I could turn to for questions, guidance, and support.
All in all, Stop Foodborne Illness was instrumental in helping me and our family develop what we called a “new normal.” Foodborne disease had struck us hard. And now we needed to take a deep dive into the world of food safety and how to navigate all of the medical issues related to Richard’s serious condition. A stressful and scary time for sure, but it was definitely eased by the kind and caring people at Stop Foodborne Illness.
Q: You’re now a generous donor to our cause. Thinking back, what inspired you to make that first donation?
A: Let me tell you a little story on how my giving evolved.
Since 2002, when I first came to know about Stop Foodborne Illness, I’d donate here and there. And I signed up to receive the eNews. Then, I didn’t do much for awhile.
But, in 2007, Richard was diagnosed with end stage renal disease, which stemmed from the HUS he had endured. Again, I contacted Stop Foodborne Illness for help and was assigned a “mentor” who called me immediately and talked me through what her daughter had been through (and was still suffering with). In those moments, I cannot even begin to describe how much comfort and strength I felt. Someone else really understood our pain and struggle. We weren’t alone.
Following that call, Richard’s health went downhill fast. His kidneys shut down and he was placed on peritoneal dialysis. That meant he did his own dialysis every six hours.
In 2009, Richard received a kidney transplant. However, that brought on major problems. The kidney donor had the Epstein-Barr Virus. Richard had never been exposed to it, which resulted in him developing post-transplant non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was then admitted to the hospital and, on October 19, 2010, I watched my only child die a cruel death that no one should have to endure. The HUS Richard suffered from caused lesions on his liver, spleen, and brain. Six of those lesions burst in his brain. Aneurysms ultimately caused Richard’s death.
Along the way, Stop Foodborne Illness did so much. During an E. coli outbreak near our hometown, one of the local news channels contacted STOP looking for someone to interview. Richard was selected, which helped us feel good about having an opportunity to promote food safety to others. Stop Foodborne Illness also facilitated Senator Dick Durbin’s request to tell Richard’s story on the Senate floor to put a face on foodborne illness when urging Congress to pass the Food Safety Modernization Act.
And when Richard passed away, I asked friends to donate to STOP in lieu of flowers.
Knowing I’m helping to fund the hugely beneficial programs and services offered by Stop Foodborne Illness gives me a sense of purpose that truly warms my heart.
Q: What’s your personal philosophy on what needs to be done better to help prevent foodborne illness? As a donor, how are you helping address that?
A: More education on foodborne pathogens and food safety is required in all groups: The general public, government, industry, academia, and the media.
When I talk about this in everyday conversations, most people tell me “I didn’t realize E. coli O157:H7 was so dangerous.” The lack of knowledge is scary. As a donor, I feel I’m supporting positive change in this area through all Stop Foodborne Illness does to educate and advocate.
Q: To anyone who isn’t currently a donor, what personal message would you like to share?
A: Please donate.
Please join the donor family of Stop Foodborne Illness. Every single donation makes a difference. You can help do more to promote food safety and assist victims with a gift today by clicking here.
I really thank you for reading a little bit about me today and please reach out to me if you’d like to connect. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
Christine Chatfield lives with her husband, Bruce, in Owasso, OK. Christine works for Verizon Wireless as an Analyst.
In her free time, Christine enjoys attending Zumba classes and is a member of the Red Hat Society, an organization that connects and supports women in their pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment, and fitness.
Christine also volunteers her time for Glad Wags Therapy dog program where she visits local hospitals and assisted living facilities.