The mother of an Edmonton boy who got sick from tainted beef says she was ignored when she told health officials that steaks were the source of her son's E. coli poisoning.
"I felt helpless. I was mad that my son got sick, and that other people could get sick," said Kristina Lees. "I’m still mad about it, actually."
Lees said a friend picked up the steaks at Costco on Sept. 5 for a BBQ at her house. Her five-year-old son, Elijah, had some of the meat and became sick three days later.
"He was complaining about a stomach ache, and I thought he didn’t want to go to school," she said.
The symptoms steadily got worse. Elijah was sent home from school the next day and Lees assumed he had the flu.
It wasn’t until that night, after the boy soiled his bed and woke up screaming, that she knew something was seriously wrong.
"At five in the morning, he was screaming in pain. ‘I have a stomach ache, I have a stomach ache,’" Lees said. "I had a pull-up [diaper] on him, and it was full of blood."
In an interview Friday, Elijah said that the pain hit him suddenly.
"I was a lot sick," he said. "It just hit me. I felt like ‘whoa, what happening to me? I could die.’
"It was just so bad, my mom thought I was actually going to die," he said.
'No one was listening to me'
Elijah spent the next day in hospital. Although he was allowed to return home, he was sick for several days.
"My dad told me that the white blood cells were like warriors, fighting," he said.
Lees said the hospital confirmed Sept. 16 that Elijah had E. coli — the same day the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a health alert over ground beef products from XL Foods.
Lees said she tried to warn health officials that her son had gotten sick after eating steak but was ignored.
"I was upset because I had been telling them all this time that it was coming from the steaks, it wasn’t coming from the ground beef," Lees said.
"And no one was listening to me."
She says it took more than a week before Alberta Health Services contacted her about Elijah’s illness.
It wasn’t until Sept 26 that a health warning was issued over steaks bought from a northeast Edmonton Costco, supplied by the XL Foods facility in Brooks, Alta.
"I feel so frustrated that it took this long," Lees said.
She said her mother-in-law also got sick, and the friend who bought the steaks spent two weeks in hospital, both from E.coli.
She said both of them are recovering, but are still weak.
Lees thinks health officials are "doing a good job" with the recall and warnings now, but that it should not have taken weeks for the first alerts to go out.
"I don’t think they handled it very well in the beginning, I think they procrastinated a bit."