’You try to eat better when pregnant’ Baby born with listeria after mom ate tainted cantaloupe comes home
Posted: December 22nd, 2011 - 2:50pm
Three months after she was born, Kendall Paciorek is finally home, just in time for Christmas.
The premature girl from Fishers, Ind., is one of the tiniest victims of last summer’s deadly listeria outbreak in cantaloupe, which sickened 146 people, including 30 who died.
JoNel Aleccia of msnbc describes how Kendall (right, photo from msnbc) spent the first several weeks of her life in an incubator, fighting off an infection contracted when her mother ate tainted melon traced to Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo.
She’s strong enough now to sleep in her own crib in the house where big sister Madison, 4, loves to color pictures of Santa.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the outbreak over this month, and the rest of the world seems poised to move on.
But for Kendall and her family, the impact of the foodborne illness caused by a summer snack is just beginning.
“Right now they don’t know what’s going to happen to her in the long term,” said Michelle Wakley-Paciorek, Kendall’s 41-year-old mother. “We were told she could have mental and or physical delays.”
Kendall was one of three newborns diagnosed with listeria infections in the outbreak that largely affected the elderly, according to the CDC. Four pregnant women became ill; one had a miscarriage.
For now, there’s no sign of serious trouble, other than the feeding tube that runs into Kendall’s stomach because the baby has had difficulty eating.
With help, she’s gained weight, now topping 7 pounds, up from 3 pounds, 11 ounces when she arrived suddenly on Sept. 21.
That was a week after the federal Food and Drug Administration announced a voluntary recall of the entire crop of fresh, whole cantaloupe from Jensen Farms.
But for Kendall and her mom, it was already too late.
“We’re thinking I ate cantaloupe sometime in the first three to four weeks of August,” Wakley recalled. “I ate it probably multiple times. You try to eat better because you’re pregnant.”
Wakley never became violently ill. Instead, she suffered headaches, muscle aches, fever and chills for several weeks before she started having contractions during a pedicure.
“I couldn’t even believe I was in labor,” said Wakley, who was rushed to an emergency department and given drugs to halt delivery.
Despite the effort, Kendall was born hours later, but so small and sick that doctors feared for her life.
Blood tests later revealed that both mother and baby were infected with listeria later traced to the tainted Colorado cantaloupe.
The months since then have been a blur of hospital rooms, doctors’ visits and worried conversations about Kendall’s future.
“You almost panic because they tell you about all kinds of learning disabilities and other problems,” she said. “It’s been like an emotional roller-coaster.”
It’s not clear whether Wakley can continue working, or whether she’ll need to quit her job to care for Kendall and her sister full-time. Her husband, Dave Paciorek, 41, is a senior manager at Federal Express.