We had heard about illness from tainted meat, but had no idea how widespread foodborne illness was.
I was seven years old when I contracted E. coli O157:H7, in 1998. This form of E. coli is a dangerous foodborne bacteria that can lead to HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome), as it did in my case. When my parents took me to the doctor, they realized that my illness was of a magnitude that they were unprepared for. In the end, I endured complications such as kidney failure and severe anemia (requiring a blood transfusion); with ten days in two different hospitals. However, the scariest aspect of this illness is chance, as there is no cure. The disease can be fatal or leave people with disabilities for life. While in Westchester Medical Center, I participated in a double blind study for a drug being developed for a possible cure. My parents and I did not know what the effects of this trial would be, but I was so sick we decided to take the risk. Unfortunately, the overall study did not produce an effective drug to be offered to the public. I am grateful that I did recover from this illness. However, I still need to be checked yearly for possible long-range effects of the bacteria. Researchers continue to look for a cure.
My mom says that she wishes she had information from S.T.O.P. before I got sick. We had heard about illness from tainted meat, but had no idea how widespread foodborne illness was. Also, we discovered how difficult it is to track the specific sources of foodborne illness. My mom felt that the people at S.T.O.P. really understood what we were going through. She appreciates e-mail alerts from S.T.O.P. with information about current foodborne threats, and supports the quest to aid victims and prevent foodborne illness.
Personally it took me years to get over my fear of germs. Currently, I work with a harmless strain of E. coli in my science research class in high school. My illness has inspired me to major in biology in college, and aim for a career in medicine or medical research later in life. So many people helped me while I was sick, that I want to give back. I was fortunate to survive such a virulent disease, so I want to help others who are in need.