Michigan is no stranger to outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 . . . particularly over the course of the last year. The CDC reports six culture-confirmed, PFGE matched cases in the JBS Swift outbreak and recall. Michigan also counted many of its residents as victims in the E. coli outbreak linked to lettuce sold by Aunt Mid’s and Santa Barbara Farms last September/October.
Among the Michigan victims of the Aunt Mid’s/Santa Barbara Farms lettuce outbreak is Lindsey Jennings, a then 21-year-old pre-med student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In fall 2008, Lindsey suffered an E. coli O157:H7 infection and illness the likes of which we don’t often see . . . at least not in somebody so undeniably healthy and vibrant. Lindsey was hospitalized for 12 days with a gastrointestinal illness so severe that she required replacement nutrition (total parenteral nutrition) because her gastrointestinal tract was too injured to process food or fluid. She did not eat solid food for over a month, and actually had to continue to receive this nutrition through a tube (peripherally inserted central catheter–PICC) even after she was discharged from the hospital.
Lindsey has continued to recover from her illness in 2009, but she has chosen not to forget about the experience of being so ill. Along with several other Marler Clark clients, Lindsey recently spoke to members of Congress about food safety issues and the need for more vigorous legislation and regulation of the food supply. Afterward, in an interview with Elizabeth Rackover of The Oakland Press, Lindsey stated, “It’s made me much more interested in the political side of things.” “No one should have to go through what we’ve gone through. There are approximately 5,000 people who die every year from foodborne illnesses and almost all of it is preventable.”