I remember my entire experience very clearly, but my memories are primarily based on my hallucinations. By the time I was checked into the hospital with extreme flu-like symptoms, toxins had already reached my brain, causing double and triple vision, delusion, and sleep deprivation. I didn’t sleep for the first 7 days in the ICU as the toxins continued to impact vital organs, including my brain, heart, pancreas, and kidneys. While my hallucinations were varied and frequent, the common thread throughout them all was my utter lack of control. My worst nightmares became my reality, but no matter how loud I thought I was screaming and yelling for help, no one could hear me.
My E. coli O157:H7 experience was not part of an outbreak; it was most likely caused by someone not following food safety protocols. This has changed the way I look at food safety and the importance of training and educating those in the food industry. I’ve experienced first-hand how individual decisions and actions can directly impact and change people’s lives forever.
Before I got sick, I was a laid back, go with the flow kind of kid. When I was in the hospital, I constantly felt like I was running late to something. I didn’t know what it was I was late for, or where I needed to be specifically, but I always wanted to know what time it was. Whether this newfound anxiety about time was due to the toxins in my brain, or the fact that my world was in utter chaos and time was the one thing I tried desperately to hold onto, I’m not sure, but to this day, I’m always early.
I’m currently the Assistant Manager of Customer Service at a food manufacturing company. I work with food quality and the importance of food safety every day. I’ve also been honored to work with Stop Foodborne Illness as well as the Conference for Food Protection to share my experience and work together towards higher food safety standards for everyone.
As the voice of people affected by foodborne illness, we collaborate with partners in academia, the food industry, and government to prevent foodborne illness. We advocate for effective food safety policy and facilitate culture change to increase food safety.