For two and a half years, I knew my life was perfect…
PATHOGEN: E. coli HUS | SOURCE: Establishment Serving Food, Fresh + Frozen Produce
Dedication to Brooke, by Elisa
My daughter, Brooke, was the light of my life. For two and a half years, I knew my life was perfect. My little girl and I spent afternoons laughing and making up silly songs together. Brooke had an incredible, great sense of humor and loved to make people laugh. She walked with a dance in her step and liked smelling flowers. She loved the swimming pool and splashing her grandpa. And, she was beautiful. Brooke had big blue eyes, hair that bounced when she walked, and a toothy smile. She walked in a room and everyone noticed her. She had such presence.
I was so proud to be her mother.
I used to envision the day I would walk her into her first day of school, snap photos of her and her prom date, and walk her down the aisle at her wedding. But my dreams, my joy, and my life stopped on June 3, 2000, when my daughter died from E. coli O157:H7 after being misdiagnosed for five days in three different hospitals. Many doctors and hospitals failed to diagnose the E. coli, all believing another hospital or doctor had already performed the simple test. My concerns about the possibility of tainted meat went ignored although Brooke exhibited all the classic symptoms. Each hospital released her, claiming I was overreacting. My little girl’s life ended, and the music stopped forever.
I am not proud to live in a community where the lives and safety of its citizens are governed by strong restaurant associations, preventing proper safeguards in food handling and preparation. Brooke died after eating a hamburger from a national fast food chain that was cooked below proper temperature on a burner that hadn’t been operating properly for five years. Although health inspectors continued to note the improper heating temperature of this one burner, they were satisfied that the burner would not be used. On Memorial Day, when the restaurant was very busy, a cook decided to speed things along and use this broken burner just once. That hamburger was given to my daughter.
As a mother, I strived to protect my daughter from visible dangers, like looking both ways before crossing the street and staying away from strangers. But the restaurants that continue to operate and sicken our children and our families are invisible dangers. That is, until we stand up and demand that restaurant safeguards be followed and infractions be reported online and on restaurant windows for all diners to see.
My daughter, Brooke, deserved a long life that was full of laughter and joy. She deserved to be a little girl, a young adolescent, to date, to go to college, to marry. She deserved to be a mother and a grandmother to her children, just as beautiful and wonderful as she was. Hug your children extra hard tonight and please urge the Health Department in your community to close down and publicly report any restaurants that fail to take proper measures to keep their restaurants, their employees, and the food they serve safe for our children.
Copyright 1999 by Author: Elisa (Brooke’s Mother)