We refused to take no for an answer. We fought for ourselves.

This is an overview of our family’s battle with E. coli in 1995.

On September 5th, our family started having mild diarrhea. It lasted about one week. The adults in the family had mild cases. However our baby, Erica had it the worst. Her pediatrician advised us not to bring her into the office, but instead try dietary changes.

Everyone’s symptoms seemed to clear up. But on the 22nd, our family started having bouts of diarrhea again. Once again, we were advised not to bring the baby in because they were seeing a lot of intestinal viruses that seemed to clear up on their own.

On the 25th, Erica’s diarrhea was quite severe. We insisted she be seen and have stool cultures done. The next day, her diarrhea turned very bloody. On the 29th, we insisted Erica be seen again and her bloody diaper be examined. More stool cultures were ordered.

On October 2nd, our pediatrician called to tell us that the lab had identified an “odd looking E. coli” and it was being sent to the state lab for further investigation. We were also told that the results would be back in a couple of days. My husband, a veterinarian, was not satisfied with this. He did his own research on the internet.

On October 4th, the pediatrician called to tell us that the lab had identified the E. coli as strain type O155. We had read through my husband’s research, that this strain of E. coli was not toxin producing, so we asked for it to be rechecked. Our request was not taken well. The doctor adopted an attitude of, “How dare you question me.”

On the 5th we called the hospital lab director to check the results. They had come back the same. After we explained the problem, the person we spoke with agreed to call the state lab. Later in the day they called back to tell us there was a mistake. The E. coli was actually O157: H7. They told us they had no other information but they would get back to us.

The doctor never returned our call. We were told that no information could be obtained because the UVA hospital was closed. That’s when we called S.T.O.P.

On October 9th we still didn’t have any information. The doctor was also refusing to test the rest of our family. I called the head pathologist at the hospital lab and he checked in on our situation. He called back to say he was sorry and that problem had been fixed and the health department had been informed.

This was not good enough for us. We sent our own stool samples to an independent lab.

On October 10th I called the state lab but they would not give me the results over the phone. All they would tell me was that Erica did not have O155. By mid morning I called the health department and they then informed me that they would start an investigation. Finally the Health department did cultures on our entire family.

The next day after weeks of waiting and investigating on our part, we finally got results. Both the state lab and the private lab confirmed that it was E. coli O157.

Everyone finally tested negative except my husband. He tested positive twice but they could not tie it to any place or food and thus refused to do more testing.

When the pediatrician got Erica’s results, he wanted to put her on a cocktail of antibiotics. But because we had been in contact with S.T.O.P., we knew better. Thankfully, Erica recovered.

We were very lucky. I believe were lucky because several reasons. My husband is a veterinarian, so he had information others don’t. We also wouldn’t back down. We refused to take no for an answer.  We fought for ourselves. We also had S.T.O.P. behind us and we are so grateful.

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