They were so concerned about her condition that they began to question whether Dana was going to live.
Dana was a happy, healthy three-year-old who loved playing at the park and with her dog Abby, going to preschool, and traveling with her family. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday in 2001 when Dana’s life changed… forever. After church my husband, our three-year-old daughter Dana, and I were looking forward to brunch at a local resort hotel on the beach. It was a gorgeous day, and we were seated between an amazing view of the ocean and a wide array of gourmet food. I was not surprised that Dana, a typical three-year-old picky eater, did not want anything to eat except cantaloupe. She proceeded to fill her plate with cantaloupe at least three times during brunch while my husband and I indulged on the other delicious food. It was a wonderful afternoon and truly a memory we will not forget — in more ways than one!
The next day Dana complained of a headache and stomachache. I contacted her pediatrician and was told it was just a virus. Over the next six days Dana continued to get worse. Her fever rose to 104 degrees, she had severe stomach cramping and bloody diarrhea. Finally, after a visit to the emergency room she was admitted to the hospital. After four days of blood tests, stool cultures, surgical consults, ultrasounds, a negative E. coli culture, and tests negative for parasites and rotavirus, the doctors were still unable to find anything conclusive. Despite her abnormal hemoglobin and hematocrit levels, Dana was able to keep fluids down and her more severe symptoms had lessened so her doctor allowed us to take her home as long as she was closely monitored by her pediatrician. We were relieved to finally be going home!
It was 7:00 pm when we were discharged from the hospital. Two hours later the phone rang and we received news that no parent should ever have to get. We had just tucked Dana into her bed when the doctors called. They were so concerned about her condition that they began to question whether Dana was going to live. Dana had a positive culture for Salmonella poona blood poisoning, and they advised us to bring her back to the hospital immediately. She needed to begin an aggressive course of IV antibiotic treatment right away. We had asked if we could wait until the morning. They said no because the Salmonella Poona organism was in her bloodstream; the illness could produce more severe health consequences, including death, and we needed to bring her back immediately. Fifteen minutes later we were in the car on our way to the hospital. It was a very long ride as we wondered whether our daughter would live or die.
Ampicillin, Gentamicin, Cefotaxime, and Clindamycin were the antibiotics that Dana was on for the next 5 days. It was painful to listen to her scream as the IV pushed this medicine into her 40 pound body. It was painful to watch as they attached heart monitors, oxygen, and catheters while they made sure her room was equipped with everything necessary should she CODE. For the next 5 days I never left her side as I was not sure if when I returned if she would be alive.
After a long week, we were again able to take Dana home and this time stay home! A week after our discharge, the FDA warned consumers that an outbreak of foodborne illness associated with cantaloupe had caused numerous illnesses and deaths across 14 states. Our state was one of them and Dana was one of the victims.
Although we were thrilled to be home, we were just beginning to learn how Dana’s Salmonella Poona would become a debilitating and lifelong challenge for her, and our family.
Dana started complaining in the hospital of joint pain on day 10 after ingesting cantaloupe. She continued to complain of joint pain and soreness at age 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and at age 10. Pediatricians and orthopedists continually stated it was “growing pains”. A day at Disney World would turn into sleepless night of pain for Dana because her knees and ankles were sore. A day of sightseeing, shopping, or just playing all turned into sleepless nights of pain. Not many people think that joint pain can be associated with foodborne illness… but it can, more often than one might think.
At age 11, Dana was diagnosed with reactive arthritis (ReA). ReA is an inflammatory arthritis that can arise after certain foodborne illnesses. The overall attack rate of foodborne illness associated with chronic ReA ranges from 1.5% – 30%. This is a debilitating disease that affects Dana’s life every day.
Despite the challenges that Dana faces today and in the future because of her reactive arthritis, our family is blessed. Blessed because Dana is a survivor of a foodborne illness, Salmonella Poona, from eating cantaloupe.