The E. coli virus quickly began attacking my body.
It was a sunny day in January; we were celebrating my son’s 3rd birthday. We have video that I, to this day, have a hard time watching, for this is when my 5-year-old daughter started showing signs of being sick and we began our battle with foodborne illness.
The following day, we got a call from her kindergarten teacher. She said Lindsey wasn’t feeling well and had an “accident” in her pants. That night I laid next to her in her bed as she got up every hour with cramps and bloody diarrhea. We brought her to the doctor the next day with kotex pads in her underwear because the bleeding was getting so bad. She was admitted to Mary Bridge Hospital for three days. On that 3rd day the Health Department called and asked us where we had eaten. The only place we had been was Jack in the Box. They transferred her to Children’s Hospital in Seattle where they began preparing her small body for the fight ahead. It was then that they finally diagnosed her with E. coli O157:H7.
We watched helpless as our once-healthy, happy child screamed in pain and did not even recognize who we were anymore. She was rushed into surgery to get tubes put in and start dialysis. They put a central line in her chest for fluids and blood draws, and a NG tube in her nose down her throat. We listened to the hum of the dialysis machine and watched the big bag under her bed fill up with blood. Once in awhile the machine would beep and we would have to turn her small body as she cried in pain because the tubes in her stomach were not draining right. We watched bag after bag of blood being pumped into her as she got sicker and sicker.
I remember sitting in the hospital chapel praying that my baby would not die. I remember the look on her doctor’s face when I said, “She’s going to get better, right?” I remember lying next to her in her bed every night, just holding her.
We were one of the lucky ones, we got to bring our child home from that hospital. Some did not, it’s not fair. It’s not fair that my daughter had to go through so much pain and my family had to watch as their granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend almost die because of unsafe food.
It has been fifteen years since our family stopped at Jack-in-the-Box for a quick dinner. I was five years old, and had just consumed an entire cheeseburger that had been severely undercooked. The E. coli virus quickly began attacking my body. We spent three days running tests, with no luck in finding the cause of my symptoms. On that third day, my parents were contacted by the Health Department. This was the start of another set of tests, which showed that my kidneys were quickly shutting down.
I was sent to Children’s Hospital, where I immediately went into surgery in order to begin the Peritoneal Dialysis. I spent the following four weeks in Children’s Hospital, while my kidneys operated on a dialysis machine and my family sat by my side. For a while, the doctors did not even know what to tell my parents. They sat in that hospital room, not knowing what was going to happen, or what I might be left having to live with.
By nothing short of a miracle, I now live as a perfectly healthy young lady. I am one of very few who can say that I have no lasting effects. I have to go in every few years for a very uncomfortable series of tests, and I am forced to be very much more aware of my health than most others, but all in all I am very lucky. Many are living with high blood pressure or diabetes, are unable to have children, have undergone many more surgeries, or have even lost their lives. I have been extremely blessed with good health and wonderful family and friends.