REAL LIFE

Mum’s warning after a meal out made her girl hallucinate

It was a nightmare for their whole family

Kim Park, 46, Gold Coast, Qld

Sitting in the sun, my family and I scanned our menus. My husband Wayne, 55, daughters, Emily, then 13, and Jorja, nine, and I were visiting Brisbane for the girls’ dance competition.

My friends Dail, 51, Leeann, 40, and Milena, 40, also had children competing, so all four families got together for a meal at the South Bank Surf Club.

‘I’ll have the calamari,’ I said to the waiter.

When my meal came, I tucked in.This is delicious, I thought, dipping my squid in the aioli. The other mums dipped hot chips in the garlic mayo too.

Mayo
(Credit: Getty)

Driving home the next day,I started to feel sick. When we pulled up at home, I ran to the bathroom. Soon, I was vomiting and had terrible stomach pains. The agony lasted hours, so we called out a doctor who said I probably had gastro.

I was still feeling sick in the morning when I checked my phone. There was a message from Dail in our group chat.

Is anyone else sick? she asked.

I am, I typed.

Milena and Leeann both said they were ill too. Soon after, we came across a story online saying lots of people who’d eaten at the surf club had since become sick.

‘I must have got food poisoning!’ I thought, realising my friends and I had all eaten the mayo. 

I got as much rest as I could and slowly felt better. But two days later, Jorja fell ill too. When she vomited, I thought she might have a bug.

Jorja, 9, and Emily, 13.
Jorja, left, became terrifyingly ill even though she didn’t eat the mayo. (Credit: Supplied)

We all went to bed, but I was woken up by Jorja screaming. She came running into our room, looking frightened and confused.

‘My mum and dad have been killed in a car accident,’ she told me. She’s hallucinating, I realised.

Wayne and I tried to comfort her, but she didn’t recognise us. It was heartbreaking to see her so distressed.

We took her to hospital where she was put on a drip. Tests showed she’d contracted salmonella.

‘She’s very dehydrated,’ the doctor told us. ‘It’s affected her brain and given her terrors.’

But she didn’t even eat the mayo, I thought, puzzled. That’s when the doctor explained that salmonella is contagious. Jorja had probably caught the bug from me.

Although the hospital were doing their best, Jorja’s night terrors continued. She ran down the hallways, shouting, and fought back when we tried to hold her.

‘It’s like she’s possessed,’ I said, scared.

After a few days, Jorja came home. Dail, Leeann and Milena were all diagnosed with salmonella, but I was tested too late for it to be officially confirmed. Health inspectors launched an investigation.

Last month, the surf club was fined $37,000 by Brisbane Magistrates Court over the salmonella outbreak, which affected 29 people. The club pleaded guilty to 22 charges of serving unsafe food over eight days in September 2015.

The court was told the eatery’s practices were not unhygienic, and that contaminated eggshells were believed to be the cause of the outbreak.

Now, Jorja still sometimes suffers from night terrors as her brain heals from the damage, but thankfully she’s doing well.

Who would’ve thought some mayo could do so much damage!

As told to Sarah Firth.

For more great Aussie real life stories check out Issue 31 of that’s life!

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