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Campylobacter Blog Surveillance & Analysis on Campylobacter News & Outbreaks

Raw Milk, Campylobacter and Guillain Barre Syndrome

It is not just the New York Times that writes great stories. The Daily Triplicate of Crescent City, California has done a great piece on Mari Tardiff and the risks of Campylobacter. Tip-of-the-pen to Nick Grube for “Mari’s Climb.” This is the first of a three part series.

On the weekend after Mari drank raw milk, she developed flu-like symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting. It was later confirmed that the raw milk she drank was tainted by Campylobacter. By Thursday, June 12, the food poisoning was overwhelming her body with an amazingly swift force. First her vision blurred. Then her hands went numb. Mari went to an emergency room, and there lab work was done and abdominal X-rays were taken. But doctors could not determine what was wrong. On Friday, Peter took Mari to a neurologist. An MRI was normal but the doctor and radiologist mentioned a frightening possibility – Guillain-Barré syndrome, or GBS, a potentially fatal inflammatory disorder.

Hours later Mari’s legs were on fire, searing with pain that, ironically, only hot water helped to soothe. Her legs hurt so much that she soon retreated to bed, wrapping her legs in warm towels and a heating blanket. During that night, Mari awoke and realized she could not move. Peter bear-hugged her to lift her to the toilet and then carried her back to bed. In the early hours of the morning, he called for help, which led to an ambulance ride to the small Sutter Coast Hospital, and then a medivac flight to the Intensive Care Unit at the larger, better-equipped Rogue Valley Medical Center (RVMC) in Medford, Oregon. She remained hospitalized for two and one-half months.

Mari was moved to Redding Rehabilitation Hospital and was finally able to come home on November 1, 2008. Today, Mari lives in her family room, which now is equipped with a hospital bed, portable toilet, a Hoyer lift and a stand-up frame, all purchased by the Tardiffs. Using their own resources, they also renovated a downstairs half-bath and laundry room into a handicapped-accessible bathroom and shower. The Tardiffs pay two nurses $10.50 an hour to care for Mari from 7:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. five days a week while Peter is at work. Home health physical and occupational therapists also come to the house five days a week.

Mari works very hard at therapy but it is a slow, painful process. Peter has found it so upsetting that he no longer can watch. Every improvement is celebrated, but he knows how much discomfort and frustration goes into each minute, regained movement. Mari may never walk again. She lost her job, she lost her dreams and plans that she held dear. The illness has been a long, arduous journey for Mari, her family and friends, and while she has made progress, there remains a long way to go.

For a detailed description of the outbreak – see LINK.