In early October the New York Times profiled Stephanie Smith, the 22-year-old former dance who ate a hamburger in 2007, suffered severe Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and subsequent brain and kidney damage. She was hospitalized for nine months. She is in ongoing rehabilitation. She now is wheelchair bound, unable to care for herself, unable to have children and is facing kidney transplants. Her medical bills to date are nearly $2M. Her future needs are nearly incalculable. Her losses break your heart. Dancing was Stephanie’s life. Because of a Cargill hamburger, her life is forever changed
The New York Times also identified Cargill’s failings in attempting to produce a product that was even close to being reasonably safe. The Cargill hamburger was sold at Wal-Mart’s throughout the country, sickening dozens along with Stephanie in 2007.
I spent the last two days in Minneapolis with Stephanie, her family and guardian meeting with Cargill, its lawyers and insurance company to try and resolve Stephanie’s claim against Cargill. We were unable to do so. A lawsuit is now her only option.
One moment at the mediation will be forever seared in my mind. Stephanie wanted to meet with Cargill’s representatives. She wanted to tell them what their hamburger did to her life. However, when the time came to meet, Stephanie was not feeling well – many of the medications she needs to take on a daily basis make her nauseous. Even being pale and lightheaded, she was determined to meet.
As she and I waited for the meeting, Stephanie suddenly vomited – multiple times. I begged off the meeting and helped clean-up Stephanie and the law office. Stephanie, however, was even more determined to meet. What both she and I did not know was that while she was vomiting she had also voided her bowels and bladder. I am not sure why I did not notice it, but Stephanie’s excuse – she feels nothing – very little – from the waist down.
Stephanie still had her meeting. I wonder if Cargill noticed.