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Spend a Moment with Melissa + Ruby

What do you remember most about your illness?

The thing I remember the most about Ruby’s illness was the fear I was going to lose my daughter. The doctors looked at me with sadness and said, “We gave her antibiotics and we hope they will work.” I was holding her in my arms and she was burning up even with the constant rotation of ibuprofen and Tylenol.

It was the doctors not knowing that fueled my fear.

  • They didn’t know what had made her sick,
  • They didn’t know what would happen next,
  • They didn’t know if it could be made better.

All I wanted was my baby girl to be okay.

How did your experience shape the way you think about food today?

Ruby’s getting sick made me realize how much my trust in the food industry was misplaced. I thought there were enough laws and guidelines in place to keep me and my family safe. I’ve since learned to read labels and pay attention to where food comes from, how it was raised and manufactured, who handles it and how.

Talk about when a consequence of your illness surprised you.

Ruby was nine months old when she first got sick. We don’t know what the long-term consequences are or will be — I will say it makes me wonder. Ruby gets sick more frequently than I, or my husband, ever did growing up. She seems to get every bug she comes in contact with, and she has much higher fevers when she gets sick. We can’t say for sure that the salmonella poisoning caused that, but I suspect it did.

Why did you get involved with Stop Foodborne Illness?

I was contacted by Stop very shortly after finding out what made Ruby sick and I chose to get involved because of two things.

  1. The facility that processed the meat that made her sick had been tested and came back positive for salmonella more than four months before my daughter got sick, and nothing had been done. No recalls. No warnings. No public information.
  2. The strain of salmonella that Ruby got was antibiotic-resistant. Thank God the doctors were able to give her a high enough dose [of antibiotics] and that it worked. What if it hadn’t? I would have lost my daughter because the industry was more concerned with keeping animals healthy and making money, than they were about the safety of humans.

Tell us about a time when something you did made you proud.

My daughter is my greatest accomplishment and joy. She will do whatever she can to put a smile on the face of those around her. She is always willing to lend a hand and offer a hug. I’m grateful everyday that she’s here and I’m proud of who she is and who she’s becoming.

Talk about a time when you spoke to a roomful of people.

One of my favorite talks was when I got to tell Ruby’s story to a group from AB Mauri, the company that makes Fleischmann’s Yeast, and other baking-related products. They were interested in hearing how one portion of contaminated food so drastically affected our life. I enjoyed sharing Ruby’s story with people who could use that information to make a difference. I also really enjoyed that talk because I got to bring Ruby along. They were so incredibly sweet to her. I believe seeing her in person and hearing how close we came to losing her made everyone value life just a little bit more. I know I’m glad for every day I get with her.

Talk about a time you stood up for yourself, or for your point of view.

I went with STOP to Washington DC to tell Ruby’s story. Ruby’s alive today, but not everyone makes it through a food borne illness. I chose to talk about it and tell her story so others, hopefully, don’t have to face what I did, or worse.

What’s currently happening in your life? 

Life always seems to be busy. Ruby loves to play soccer and can’t wait till it starts back up in March. She’s loving school and really starting to enjoy reading and all the adventures found in literature. She loves hanging out with friends and playing with her pets.