Foodborne illness, a.k.a. food poisoning, is the REAL DEAL.
Just FYI this story DOES have a happy ending and the hubby is now fine. Also, a warning, some details included may contain the 'ick factor' but as mentioned, the truth is ugly.... and gross. It also explains why last week's post was up a bit late - again my apologies.
So the story begins with my husband coming home last Monday feeling very flu-ish. We all know the feeling, headache, nausea, tiredness, and just generally blah feeling. He looked pretty awful when he came home so I suggested he take something and go lie down for a while. After several hours of sleep he finally moved to the couch, but was even more nauseated than before and had absolutely no appetite. Eventually, I guess he felt ill enough that he thought he might actually get sick so he went to the bathroom while I was working in my office.
Now there is a slight gap in the story here where we have filled in the blanks as best we could because basically, after a few minutes, I started to wonder where he was and proceeded to find him totally blacked out, not breathing, laying in a sea of his own sick in the bathroom. Ugly. I know.
Finally, when he could actually pull himself away from the toilet, I grabbed a bucket and threw him into the car and off to the hospital we went. Mental note - learn a better route to the hospital. Luckily there weren't many people on the road, because we had to pull over for a few more puking episodes before we actually made it into emergency.
Now, before I go into the details of what happened at the hospital I would just like to say that we received amazing care. Although it was not fast by any means and there were a few people that could have done a potentially better job, overall I am grateful and very satisfied with the care we received.
Upon arrival to the hospital, they took him right in to do some blood work and a urine sample, after which he proceeded to basically pass out again and ended up on a gurney in the hallway (see below). One minute the nurse was talking about how great the Cher concert was and the next minute she had a handful of cold clothes and a doctor at his side checking him out. I was thoroughly impressed by her immediate realization that he was going to pass out and the quick action she took to keep his head from hitting the floor .... again.
When the doctor was finally able to see him, he did an exam and said the blood work and urine sample all looked fine. He asked him a bunch of questions and decided to run a head CT since he wasn't sure why he passed out like that and wanted to check to make sure nothing scary was going on in there. They whisked him right in and when he came back the doctor said his head looked fine. At the end of this, all the doctor told us that we could go home and that this whole event may have been caused by food poisoning but if the symptoms got worse it could be the start of a really bad flu or infection and to come back if the symptoms worsened. The doctor also told us that since he was so violently ill, that may have been what caused him to blackout, although they weren't sure what would have caused him to temporarily stop breathing. I was told to monitor him but that he would be able to go to sleep without worry.
By this point in the night Bryson was exhausted so we went home and he pretty much fell right asleep. Luckily for him (and me) the nausea had passed and he was able to get a decent night's sleep despite a pretty terrible headache. He stayed home for a day or so and took it really easy drinking lots of fluids and eating what he could. When he attempted to go back to work on Wednesday he had to head back home after only a few hours since he had what he described as an "explosive headache." He came home once again looking awful and since his headache really wasn't improving, back to the doctor we went. As fate would have it, the same doctor we saw on Monday was working that day and he worked with the on-call doctor to determine that he did in fact have a concussion. We're assuming that he got it from falling over after passing out, even though there was no real visible bump or major bruising. I guess the swelling didn't show up when we were there the first time but the doctor strictly told him to rest and take it easy for another 3 - 5 days. By about the 4th day he was finally free of the constant pounding headache and I am happy to report that he is back at work today and although still taking it pretty easy, is feeling MUCH better.
So what's the moral of the story? Foodborne illness is the REAL DEAL.
So WHAT exactly is foodborne illness (food poisoning)?
All I know, is that both him and I do NOT welcome any events like this in the future and after reading this ugly story I imagine all of you would like to avoid a similar situation at all costs. It will not only save you from tremendous stress but could actually save a life. You can imagine that whatever beast of a bug infected my young, active, and other-wise healthy husband, could have been devastating to a young child or grandparent (the young and old are at a much higher risk from serious complications related to foodborne illness). In fact, as I am writing this my husband just got a phone call from his grandma who was calling to check up on him (sweet, I know), and she informed us that she had just gotten out of the hospital after several days of ALSO being sick with food poisoning! There was no common cause for their food poisoning (we checked), but just really bad luck all around! When it rains, it pours.
So let's talk a little about safe food handling and how it can help prevent foodborne illness in your home. As a Dietitian, part of my training is to know about safe food handling and storage, since many Dietitians work as food service managers in large food production facilities or hospitals. Obtaining a certified food handler certificate is a requirement of many jobs and the course is often taught by Dietitians.
Health Canada (2014) reports that there are approximately 4 million cases of foodborne illness in Canada each year. This is a staggering number, although it has been reduced over the past several years with increased awareness of food safety and better programs and monitoring in place to prevent the spread of unsafe food into our food system.
There are some foods that are more hazardous than others and therefore require extra care when storing and preparing. The most common foods that support the growth of micro-organisms or the production of toxins include many high protein foods such as poultry, ground meats, and dairy products (eggs, milk). Foods like cooked rice, pasta, and even unwashed fruits and vegetables can also make you sick if they are not properly handled and stored or if they become contaminated by other unsafe food. It is important to know that unsafe food does NOT always look, smell, or taste ''off," but can still be harmful to consume.1
If I can't SEE it, SMELL it, or TASTE it, how do I know if its UNSAFE?
So that's the ugly truth. Keep in mind, our experience wasn't exactly a typical one. Many people develop mild cases of food poisoning and never end up with serious consequences other than some uncomfortable trips to the bathroom. Luckily in our case, everything turned out fine, but it certainly gave our friends and family a good scare. Foodborne illness can be very serious, especially for children, seniors, and those with compromised immune systems (ex. HIV or cancer patients). If you are just learning to cook, want to teach your kids (or husbands) how to safely prepare food, or simply want more information, Health Canada has some good resources on their website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/index-eng.php
Hopefully I didn't scare you all away with this less than flattering post, but I promise next week we can discuss something much prettier - perhaps how to make smiley faced pancakes? Ok, maybe not -suggestions are always welcome ;) Here's hoping everyone has a great week that's nothing like the one described here!
2 Health Canada (2014). Estimates of foodborne illness in Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/efwd-emoha/efbi-emoa-eng.php