The families of George Drinkwalter’s “Neb. family hopes changes follow listeria outbreak” and William Beach “Family of listeria victim, 87, shocked by news of cause”, honored their husbands and fathers by speaking out about their lives and their untimely deaths. Food producers and politicians – pay attention! Here are some exerpts:
William Beach did what old folks with sensitive stomachs do: He found cantaloupe was agreeing with him that week, and so he ate it for five days straight.
Beach’s wife, Monette, was happy to keep buying the melons for her retired husband — until the former Oklahoma truck driver got so sick that he couldn’t speak or climb up off the floor where he had fallen.
At an Oklahoma City hospital on Sept. 1, the ailing, 87-year-old great-grandfather bled so profusely during an intubation attempt that the family was “devastated” from all the blood, one of Beach’s daughters said.
“I knew about food poisoning,” said Hathaway, 61. “I certainly didn’t know you could get it from cutting into a cantaloupe and using the same knife to cut it up.”
Like others, the Beach family has joined a lawsuit filed against Jensen Farms and its distributor, Frontera Produce. They said they hope the suit will help bring out answers to the outbreak and prevent future listeria cases.
Hathaway and Graham said their focus is now on their mother, who is 85. She and William had lived independently until now, going to their local community center to walk 16 laps to reach a mile.
“I worry about her. She just cries and cries,” Hathaway said. “She asks me, Brenda, did he suffer? We’re not leaving her alone. We don’t expect her to go back to the house.”
George Drinkwalter’s relatives hope no other family will have to endure what they have in the past month. They say the Cody, Neb., man’s life was cut short because of the fruit he chose to eat for breakfast.
“It was hard to watch him die the way he did die,” Randy Drinkwalter, of North Platte, one of George’s four sons, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.
Drinkwalter’s wife, Isla, said he was in good health before eating cantaloupe for breakfast a couple days in a row. In fact, George Drinkwalter had visited his doctor for a check-up and was told he was looking good shortly before he showed any symptoms, she said.
On Sept. 8, he started shaking, she said. The next day, he fell at home and had to be rushed by ambulance to the Valentine, Neb., hospital.
“He was still doing good until this damn cantaloupe deal,” said Keith Drinkwalter, who lives in Chadron.
The Drinkwalter family hasn’t decided yet whether file a lawsuit against the cantaloupe producer and distributors. Family members hope that telling their story might help lead to a safer food production system, and maybe more consumers will be inspired to take precautions such as washing fruits and vegetables and cooking meat thoroughly.
“If we could prevent one other family from going through what we have, it will be worth it,” Keith Drinkwalter said.
“Somehow we’ve got to figure out a way, so it doesn’t happen again,” said Darrell Drinkwalter, who lives in Casper, Wyo.