Page last updated at 06:43 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Living with the legacy of E.coli

Sharon Mills
Sharon Mills is still suffering after the death of her son Mason

As a report from the public inquiry into Wales' largest E.coli outbreak is published, those who were affected by it have spoken of the long-term impact it has had on their lives.

When Sharon Mills talks about the "horrific" effects E.coli had on her son, she looks haunted.

As she lists the catalogue of pain and suffering Mason endured before he died, it is hard to comprehend that the five-year-old picked up the food poisoning bug from contaminated meat served at his school.

But Sharon, from Deri, in Bargoed, Caerphilly county, is all too aware of the causes of the illness that led to her son's death in 2005.

And as a report is published from the public inquiry into the outbreak, which affected 157 people, she faces a future knowing that, while it may help others, it is too late for her family.

"E.coli is a very nasty thing. It just seeps through the body," she told BBC Wales' Week in Week Out programme.

"In Mason's case part of his kidneys had died, his intestines were eaten away. If he had survived, he would have had to be drip fed, he wouldn't be the same child.

Mason Jones
Because Mason suffered terribly, it was horrific to see what he had to go through. I think people really need to be aware of that now
Sharon Mills

"Maybe he would have faced life in a wheelchair or another scenario was he might have been in hospital for the rest of his life.

"Mason suffered seizures, suffered blood poisoning, it shut down his veins, stopped his urine output.

"It can have very bad consequences concerning brain damage. It can affect the eye sight, it can lead them to go blind. It's got terrible, terrible outcomes."

She added: "Because Mason suffered terribly, it was horrific to see what he had to go through. I think people really need to be aware of that now."

She said life will never be the same for her again.

Seeing children Mason's age, seeing his old school friends and tucking her other two children into bed each night - and not their brother - is now "mental torture all the time".

"The normal things that so many families take for granted and I have lost it," she added.

"I have lost any normality that I had."

'Panic mode'

Garyn Price was luckier than Mason - although he still suffers from the effects of the E.coli bug he contracted.

The 13-year-old, who lives in Caerphilly, is no stranger to illness or pain, having suffered a stroke when he was six.

But what made his second illness so hard to bear was the fact that it could have been prevented, his mother Julie said.

"The pain of E.coli was much worse than what happened in 2002 with the stroke," she said.

"It's something that could have been avoided. That was the bitterest pill for all of us, including Garyn, to swallow.

"That all this was down to somebody cutting corners and not being hygienic. That was very, very hard to take."

I'm not really over it yet. I worry about if it's going to happen again to someone else
Garyn Price

Garyn suffered renal failure and had to be airlifted to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool for treatment.

It is something that still affects him.

"Psychologically, Garyn is still paranoid about where he gets takeaways from, what he eats" said Mrs Price.

"If he gets an upset stomach, just slightly upset stomach, he goes into complete panic mode, you know 'have I got E.coli?' which sometimes we try to brush over but at the end of the day he's 13-years-old, he shouldn't have to worry about things like that."

Garyn, who is now in secondary school, said he still has worries about the illness.

"I thought I was going to die. The needles weren't all that bad because I was used to them but it was really frightening," he said.

"I'm not really over it yet. I worry about if it's going to happen again to someone else, you know? And if it might happen around here again and my friends might have it."

Week In Week Out will be on BBC One Wales at 2100 GMT on Thursday.

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