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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Jim Orchard in Pittsburgh Hospital with Guillain-Barre Syndrome caused by Campylobacter-tainted Raw Milk

Team 4 investigator Jim Parsons reports tonight that 67-year old Jim Orchard drank a bottle of raw milk and is now in intensive care, unable to move.

“They were saying the health benefits, and it was a healthy thing to do, and we like the taste of it,” said Orchard’s wife, Maureen.

The Orchards purchased their milk from Pasture Maid Creamery in New Castle. They didn’t know that state officials told consumers in February 2009 to discard Pasture Maid Creamery’s milk because it contained pathogenic bacteria – Campylobacter – and last month, it happened again. The state agriculture department has suspended the milk production permit of Pasture Maid Creamery.

State health officials say approximately 10 people became ill after drinking raw milk from Pasture Maid Creamery. Among them were Maureen Orchard, her husband, Jim, and her daughter. Everyone got well except Jim Orchard, who was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that attacks the nervous system. He’s paralyzed at UPMC Presbyterian hospital.

“Nobody can give you a timeline. With everyone, it’s different. And he needs extensive physical therapy, and what that will entail, we have no idea,” Maureen Orchard said.

This is exactly what happened to Mari Tardiff during the Alexandre Eco Farms Dairy Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak in 2008.  On the weekend after Mari drank raw milk, she developed flu-like symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting. By Thursday, June 12, the food poisoning was overwhelming her body with an amazingly swift force. First her vision blurred. Then her hands went numb. Mari went to an emergency room, and there lab work was done and abdominal X-rays were taken. But doctors could not determine what was wrong. On Friday, Peter took Mari to a neurologist. An MRI was normal but the doctor and radiologist mentioned a frightening possibility – Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially fatal inflammatory disorder.

Hours later Mari’s legs were on fire, searing with pain that, ironically, only hot water helped to soothe. Her legs hurt so much that she soon retreated to bed, wrapping her legs in warm towels and a heating blanket. During that night, Mari awoke and realized she could not move. Peter bear-hugged her to lift her to the toilet and then carried her back to bed. In the early hours of the morning, he called for help, which led to an ambulance ride to the small Sutter Coast Hospital, and then a medivac flight to the Intensive Care Unit at the larger, better-equipped Rogue Valley Medical Center (RVMC) in Medford, Oregon. She remained hospitalized for two and one-half months.

Mari was moved to Redding Rehabilitation Hospital and was finally able to come home on November 1, 2008. Today, Mari lives in her family room, which now is equipped with a hospital bed, portable toilet, a Hoyer lift and a stand-up frame, all purchased by the Tardiffs. Using their own resources, they also renovated a downstairs half-bath and laundry room into a handicapped-accessible bathroom and shower. The Tardiffs pay two nurses $10.50 an hour to care for Mari from 7:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. five days a week while Peter is at work. Home health physical and occupational therapists also come to the house five days a week.

Mari still works very hard at therapy but it is a slow, painful process. Peter has found it so upsetting that he no longer can watch. Every improvement is celebrated, but he knows how much discomfort and frustration goes into each minute, regained movement. Mari may never walk again. She lost her job, she lost her dreams and plans that she held dear. The illness has been a long, arduous journey for Mari, her family and friends, and while she has made progress, there remains a long way to go:

Raw Milk Risks: Mari Tardiff Campylobacter Illness from Marlerclark on Vimeo.