A mother from Queensland has shared the heartbreaking moment she was told she’d contracted listeria and passed it to her unborn baby.
Jeanya Rush, 20, from Brisbane, was six months pregnant with her second child – a baby boy – when she started to experience ‘excruciating headaches and high fevers’.
The young mum told Daily Mail Australia that she later discovered she had contracted listeria – from either a pre-cut fruit salad, cream cheese or an ice-cream she had eaten – and had passed the food-born illness on to her baby boy, who she and her partner Levi had named Zephaniah.
Doctors told her the infection had left her son ‘severely disabled’ and she and Levi faced the agonising decision whether to let him go.
‘I had tested positive for Listeria. It had infected my uterus and also reached Zephaniah’s brain,’ Ms Rush wrote in a heartbreaking Facebook post.
‘He [the doctor] told us that Zephaniah could not live without the machines that aid him and if he were to survive he would be severely disabled for the rest of his life.
‘He would show no emotion or understanding he would be basically be in a comatose state. And worst of all, it was our choice whether or not to let him go. Levi and I were broken. Nothing could ever describe the pain we felt in that moment.’
Ms Rush said it was the hardest decision they had ever had to make.
‘It took a long time to decide. As Zephaniah stayed on life support, we were by his side and it made everything that much harder,’ she wrote.
‘But we both knew what we had to do and eventually Levi and I came to a decision and it was the hardest one we have ever had to make. We chose to let Zephaniah go and relieve him of his pain and suffering.’
Ms Rush had initially been told the headache and fever she was experiencing required painkillers, rest and an increase in her iron intake.
But after returning home from hospital a second time, she started to have ‘horrible pains’ in her stomach – which she feared were contractions.
Soon after she started vomiting.
‘A doctor came to check on me and she became instantly concerned as my vomit was jet black,’ Ms Rush explained.
A check-up revealed she was one centimetre dilated and she was rushed to another hospital where she was told she needed a caesarean.
‘It was all happening so fast. I was panicking,’ she wrote, explaining that the operation ‘felt long and made me so anxious to see if our boy was ok.’
Ms Rush said after her baby was born he was rushed off to an incubator where he could be monitored by specialists and aided with breathing tubes.
‘I cried for what felt like hours,’ she wrote.
‘I woke up in my room with Levi by my side. I was an emotional wreck trying to hold it together. I could barely move I was in so much pain but once I gathered enough strength I had Levi put me in a wheel chair and take me down to see our boy.
‘It was lovely to see all the midwives taking such good care of him. He had a bath and had been given a little knitted blanket and hat. He looked so tiny and precious, I knew in that moment I had never loved someone as much as I loved our son.’
Tragically, the next day a doctor face them ‘the most shattering news’ they had ever heard.
Ms Rush had tested positive for listeria – leading their baby to be severely disabled – and the young couple made the devastating decision to let him go.
Ms Rush wrote, “I know that this story is very confronting and some may wonder why I’ve chosen to share this with the world. I am truly proud of how strong I am as a woman and as a Mother. This experience has genuinely changed Levi and I. We miss Zephaniah every single day as he was so loved and touched the hearts of so many people. It’s not just our story, it’s his.”
Our thoughts are with them. It is so scary after reading just a few weeks ago of the mum who was thirty three weeks into her pregnancy and picked up a Listeria infection from fruit — thankfully her baby was OK. Read her story here.
Health authorities are urgently reminding pregnant woman to be extra careful with their food choices.
Listeria bacteria is found in a variety of foods, including cold meats, cold cooked chicken, raw fish, soft-serve ice cream, soft cheeses and unpasteurised milk.
But the bacteria is also found in pre-cut fruit and pre-bagged salads, products that are highly popular in supermarkets and convenience stores.
See tips below from Food Safety Information Council on how to avoid Listeria:
1. prepare and cook your own food so you know it is fresh
2. wash your hands before handling food and keep your kitchen and utensils clean
3. avoid refrigerated foods that are past their ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
4. refrigerate leftovers as soon as they stop steaming and use within 24 hours, reheat them to 75 °C
Also try to avoid foods which have a higher risk of Listeria contamination such as:
• cold meats from delicatessen counters and sandwich bars, and packaged, sliced ready-to-eat meats
• cold cooked ready- to-eat chicken (whole, portions, or diced)
• pre-prepared or pre-packaged fruit or vegetable salads, including those from buffets and salad bars
• chilled seafood such as raw oysters, sashimi and sushi, smoked ready-to-eat seafood and cooked ready-to-eat prawns
• soft, semi-soft and surface-ripened cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, blue and feta
• refrigerated paté or meat spreads
• soft serve ice cream
• unpasteurised dairy products.
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