In the fall of 1996 I became deathly ill from a food-borne illness. The following is a short essay I wrote my freshman year of college about my life-threatening experience with E.coli 0157:H7. I believe it will help you understand the motivation behind my blog, and ultimately why I make daily decisions to live the healthiest life I can.
Poison to Passion
It doesn’t actually fall under the definition of a “moment”. However, those 19 tragic days certainly turned a light on for me. When I was just seven years of age, I was diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome caused by the foodborne bacteria E. coli. Once the whites of my eyes started to turn yellow, my mom knew that I hadn’t just been lounging on the couch for an entire week with the stomach flu. After several trips to my pediatrician and a blood test later, it was decided that I needed to be flown out of the area to receive intense care. I was jetted away in a private plane to Children’s Hospital Oakland, where I resided for the following 19 days. The three weeks I spent in that hospital changed my life…it not only saved it, but it made me who I am – a health-conscious girl who looks on the bright side of life, and loves every minute of it! Ironically, the cause of my illness (spoiled food) has now become my passion in life. My life revolves around every aspect of food, from the safety of it to its nutritional values, and the incredible dishes into which a simple ingredient can be transformed.
I was too young at the time to understand what was happening inside my poor body during my hospital stay. I did not know what was causing me to be ill (nor did anyone for that matter), and I wasn’t aware of the serious condition I was in. Yet, after my recovery, and as I grew older, I began to understand my situation more and more, and appreciate my life that was once on the line. When I was old enough to comprehend what had struck me when I was seven years old, I learned that the E. coli bacteria (from an unknown food source) had caused both of my kidneys to shut down. With the assistance of a dialysis machine for two weeks, 19 units of blood, and a bubbly seven-year-old personality, I was up and running again. The result of my terrible case of food poisoning has opened my (as well as the rest of my family) awareness to the safety of food handling. Just recently, I became ServSafe (a national training and safety program for employees in the food industry) certified. Not only am I concerned about the safety of the food I eat, but I am also interested in the nutritional characteristic of food and its relationship with our bodies.
The effect of my illness directly affected me on how to handle food in order to keep my body free of harm. In addition, I also formed a liking for the nutritional element of food. I suppose one could say “I watch what I eat”, and am in general a “health-freak”. The process of how our body utilizes the food we feed it, and the importance of specific nutrients fascinates me. Not only is the safety of food vital, but what we fuel our bodies with is equally important.
In addition to the health and safety of food that my experience opened my awareness too, I also formed a passion for the culinary art component of food. My fondness of cooking began the summer before my freshman year of high school, and I have been in love ever since. Throughout my high school years, I was enrolled in three cooking courses, took additional classes in my community, and visited a couple of culinary institutes. I am a Food Network fanatic, and eating is constantly on my mind. I enjoy being in the kitchen, learning from my mistakes, and sharing the positive results with those that I love.
As one can see, my life-threatening illness and time at Children’s Hospital Oakland certainly altered my outlook on life. Eating, and food in general, is such a regular part of our lives that we rarely think about its underlying functions. I’ve made a commitment to focus on those functions, and to make sure I am putting quality into my body in order for it to produce excellence. The effect of eating a bit of spoiled food has made me into the person I am. Now I am the most health-conscious person I know, always trying to keep my body functioning at its highest potential. I understand the preciousness of life and attempt to be a positive person because I have realized just how special it is.