What It's Like to Be Nearly Killed by E. Coli

Maggie Menditto recalls her life-threatening experience with the bacterial infection
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2018 5:37 PM CDT
What It's Like to Be Nearly Killed by E. Coli
In this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, file photo, a microbiologist points out an isolated E. coli growth on an agar plate from a patient specimen at the Washington State Dept. of Health in Shoreline, Wash.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

When Maggie Menditto first came down with troubling symptoms including abdominal cramps and "blood coming out of new and terrifying places," doctors thought she had colitis. She was placed on antibiotics in the hospital, but soon she was throwing up every hour and an infectious disease doctor diagnosed her with an E. coli infection. This was last October, several months before the current E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, but doctors suspect she ingested the bacteria via contaminated leafy greens. They halted the antibiotics, since those are linked to an increased risk of severe complications from E. coli, but her kidneys were already starting to falter. She had hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is life-threatening, and she recounts her terrifying experience in an essay for the New York Times.

She was transferred to another hospital and started getting plasmapheresis treatments, in which her blood was removed, cleaned, and returned to her body. She gained 30 pounds from excess fluid, and doctors started her on dialysis treatments to do her kidneys' work for them. Those treatments helped, but she still had to have a catheter surgically placed in her chest to drain and administer fluids. Doctors planned for her to continue dialysis at home and sent her there to rest, but after going to sleep in her own bed she had the first of three seizures—caused by a dangerous rise in blood pressure as her kidneys tried to work again—and ended up back in the hospital. Finally, her kidneys began to heal themselves. Now, she writes, "I have only the scars to remind me that ... it really happened to me." Click for her full piece. (More E. coli stories.)

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