Andrew Martin of the New York Times wrote a nice article this morning on the safety of our food supply. We represent all three individuals profiled in his article: Heather Whybrew, Carl Ours, and Mary Tardiff. All suffered devastating illnesses in separate outbreaks and from different pathogens. All have unbelievable stories of suffering.
Heather’s story is unique, perhaps because she had lived through so much pain in her life even before her severe E. coli O157:H7 illness. In November 2004, after two years of headaches, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Treatment for her relatively rare condition—giant cell glioblastoma—included a full craniotomy to remove the tumor from the left frontal lobe of Heather’s brain. The procedure left her partially paralyzed. She remained hospitalized at Seattle Children’s Hospital and in intensive rehabilitation from November 16 until December 24, 2004.
During her rehabilitation, Heather had to relearn many basic motor functions, including how to walk. Relearn these skills she did, and despite her brain tumor, Heather eventually went on to college at Pacific Lutheran University.
Heather was infected by E. coli O157:H7 in the midst of finals her freshman year from contaminated lettuce served in a University Cafeteria. She would ultimately be hospitalized at St. Francis Hospital and Seattle Children’s Hospital for three weeks. During her hospitalization, Heather battled endless nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, a bad pneumonia illness, and severe blood clots in the superficial veins of her arms. The combined medical treatment would cost almost $114,000. She would have to make up her final exams during the next school year.
By the time Heather had recovered to the point that she could return to school at Pacific Lutheran University, class was already well into the first semester. Thus, as a result of her E. coli O157H7 illness, not only did Heather miss final exams her freshman year, but also she had to drop certain courses from her schedule during fall semester of her sophomore year. She will be forced to take another year of class at Pacific Lutheran University as a result of the delays caused by her E. coli O157:H7 illness. The cost of this additional year will be at least $36,000.