None of us ever imagined that the food we were eating might not be safe.
PATHOGEN: Hepatitis A | SOURCE: Establishment Serving Food, Fresh + Frozen Produce
In 1997 I was a typical happy 11-year-old girl, spending time with my friends, family and going to school. Every day my friends and I ate I lunch in the school’s cafeteria. None of us ever imagined that the food we were eating might not be safe.
Several weeks after eating a strawberry dessert at school I got sick. The body aches, headaches, and abdominal pain came first, quickly followed by a high fever and vomiting. I didn’t go to school for four days but wasn’t getting any better. My parents took me to the emergency room when I could no longer eat and drink. I was severely dehydrated. My urine was the color of weak coffee.
The doctor suspected Hepatitis A which was a complete surprise to me and my family. I was immediately admitted to the hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed. I was so dehydrated that the nurses couldn’t find a vein to start my IV. My father had to help hold me down so the nurses could get a needle in my arm. I later found out I was screaming so loud my mom could hear my cries all the way down the hall.
I stayed in the hospital for six days with my parents by my side praying I would stop vomiting. I was in so much pain that that I was unable to communicate with my family and barely able to open my eyes. My parents told me that tears would fall down my face and that I would groan in my sleep. My body convulsed in dry heaves, even though I hadn’t eaten in a week, while it desperately tried to rid itself of the poison. I lost 10% of my body weight.
I soon discovered that I was one of hundreds of children sickened by Hepatitis A that came from contaminated frozen strawberries served at school. For months after I left the hospital I battled hair loss, fatigue, and had shingles twice. I had constant unexplained back pain. It was all truly horrible.
At 21 I still worry about the prevalence of foodborne illness. Eighteen months after I was hospitalized with Hepatitis A, my older sister was infected by E. coli and nearly died. Both experiences were very traumatic for my entire family.
The mission of Stop Foodborne Illness is to:
Support and engage people directly impacted by foodborne illness and mobilize them to help prevent illness and death by driving change through advocacy, collaboration and innovation.