Real Life Impacts of E. coli Infection and HUS
What are the real life impacts of E. coli infection?
Because the illnesses caused by the ingestion of E. coli bacteria range from mild to severe, the real life impacts of E. coli infection vary from person to person.
While anyone can become ill with an E. coli infection, very young children, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are most likely to develop severe illness and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Best estimates indicate that between 5 and 10% of people diagnosed with E. coli infection develop HUS.
Most E. coli patients with HUS recover within a few weeks, but the real life impacts of E. coli infection and HUS can be devastating. Some HUS patients—even healthy older children, young and mature adults—suffer permanent organ damage or die.
A few families whose lives have been permanently altered by this devastating pathogen volunteered to share their stories:
- 20-year-old dance instructor Stephanie Smith ate an E. coli-contaminated hamburger in 2007. She developed hemolytic uremic syndrome and was placed in a medically induced coma after her HUS led to severe central nervous system impairment. While she was hospitalized with HUS, Stephanie suffered brain damage and is now a paraplegic. She continues physical and occupational therapy in her quest to one day dance again.
- 7-year-old Abby Fenstermaker contracted E. coli after having contact with her grandfather, who had eaten an E. coli-contaminated hamburger. Abby’s E. coli infection quickly progressed to HUS, and the 1st grader died on May 17, 2007, just 10 days after first complaining of a tummy ache—the first symptom of her E. coli infection.
- 57-year-old Linda Rivera fell ill with an E. coli infection and HUS in 2009. She was hospitalized for over a year and nearly died several times after multiple organs failed. She had to learn to talk and walk again. Linda continues to recover from her E. coli infection and HUS.
- 2-year-old Ashley Armstrong was one of over 200 people who became ill with E. coli infections after eating contaminated spinach in 2006. Ashley developed HUS and was hospitalized for months when her kidneys failed, causing the need for daily dialysis treatments. She faces a lifetime of dialysis and kidney transplants.