Sunday, January 25, 2009

Salmonella - Such a Pretty Name

The current salmonella outbreak started me thinking about my experience with the bacteria 15 years ago. I got it from eating undercooked beef liver—my own fault.

I had gotten up at 4:00 a.m. to drive my son to meet a group that was taking a weekend hike on a mountain. When I got home I asked my daughter Jill if she was cold. She said, "If you're cold, maybe you have a fever. It's not cold in here." Boy, did I have a fever! Within a half hour I was shaking so much, teeth chattering, that I, who usually avoid doctors and hospitals, asked my DH to drive me to the ER.

I couldn't walk from the car to the entrance. In a bed in the ER, I was delirious, thinking my cat Nocci was on the bed with me. I couldn't open my eyes or communicate very well, but I could hear people around me. I know at one point my BP was 80/28. I don't know if it got any lower.

They did a culture and diagnosed me with salmonella. They started antibiotics. I was in the ER all day. They wanted to admit me to the hospital, but I insisted on going home late that night.

Without getting too graphic, I'll just say that salmonella is one very messy illness. The Dept. of Health called me the next day and said it's highly contagious, so I would have to clean up after myself. I could barely raise my head from the pillow. They told me the antibiotics the hospital had prescribed would do no good, but I kept taking them anyway. I think that was probably a good thing, as a raging infection like that could have spread into something unmanageable. It attacked my colon to the point where there was lots of blood.

I was in bed for more than two weeks, during which time I couldn't even imagine myself being well. Jill told me later that she feared I would never get better. I've had wicked cases of the flu ("Martian Death Flu"), but I have never been as sick as I was with salmonella.

Months later, I went back to the ER to thank the doctor for his good care, and he told me I had such a severe case that if I hadn't been so healthy going into it, I might not have survived.

I never ate liver again.

30 comments:

Dona said...

Wow -- I didn't know about the Peanut Butter issue going on now until I read your opening line.

And Wow -- I had no idea it was like this. How could you clean up after yourself?

I didn't know it was contagious either. I learned a lot from this post.

Thank you. (I think)

Susan said...

LOL I just this minute wrote a message on a friend's Facebook commenting on a great site she had posted, and I said "Thanks (I think)."

Indigo Bunting said...

Utterly frightening.

Sue said...

Hi Susan,
I just found you again from the thread on blogging at the cottage garden forum. I have had the flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, and mono. It sounds to me that I want to avoid salmonella! I'm glad you recovered from it.

Sue, lvtgrdn

Helen said...

Yikes. And now even Skippy is a carrier. (Or is it a certain brand only? They didn't have anything on the news here about it, I only know of it through Maureen.)

Of anything that can be eaten from a living thing, liver seems like it should be way up on the list of things to avoid. Second only to the intestines perhaps.

Susan said...

Hi Sue--I'm glad you found me! And glad you recovered from all those nasties. Yes, do avoid salmonella.

Helen, you're right about liver. But I grew up eating organ meats: lamb kidneys (mixed grill!), sweetbreads, etc. My son persuaded me to give up kidneys after he took a biology course and learned that kidneys catch toxins. Now I don't eat any of them. I'd give up meat entirely if I didn't seem to need it. When we had the tofu business and were vegetarian, my family did very well on that diet, but not I.

crystal said...

I had no idea how bad samonella could get. It sounds really awful!

Susan said...

Hi Crystal - I believe seven people have died from this latest outbreak. Funny . . . all the recent salmonella problems have involved non-animal sources. We've gone from dirty slaughterhouses to dirty agricultural practices.

Helen said...

You had a tofu business? Details please...

Susan said...

Hi Helen - Yup, my husband started up a tofu business about 30 years ago, after his chemical company blew up (literally). We figured tofu was safer (literally).

He converted a space in the barn into a pristine manufacturing facility, and made about 2,000 lb. of tofu a week, which we delivered to health food stores in two states. He made the BEST tofu--organic soybeans from Iowa, nigari (the coagulant) ordered directly from Japan.

I gave tofu cooking demonstrations all over the place, and developed 30 or so tofu recipes for a Rodale cookbook. As the family cook, I was so spoiled . . . just walked across the road to the barn to pick up as much tofu as I wanted, fresh from the kettles.

After some years he expanded and made tempeh, too. Plus the company had a bakery in another state that made tofu pot pies and desserts. He sold the business to a group of men who quickly ran it into the ground. But I have fond memories!

crystal said...

That's so interesting about the tofu. Being a vegetarian too, my sister eats a lot of tofu but I'm kind of creeped out by the texture. Did you have to be regularly inspected by the health department? I have this fantasy of making pund cakes and selling them online but I doubt my kitchen would pass muster :)

Helen said...

Wow, all these secret lives being revealed! And I love the idea of a tofu barn.

Susan said...

Yeah, the Dept of Ag inspected us. They were strict, so most kitchens don't pass. Mine certainly wouldn't.

Re the texture, the first time I encountered tofu I thought I was eating beef testicles. But I didn't even care, because I loved it. When we first left NYC I made it myself, but it was too labor-intensive.

If the texture bothers you, find a recipe that makes it disappear. Like Tofu Pan Pizza (Tofu Goes West cookbook), which uses tofu in the soft, whole wheat crust. It's really delicious. Or my own Tofu Linguini (recipe on request to anyone who wants it).

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