E. coli death raises questions for family

Husband, son call for quicker release of information on potential health risks.

Loss: Dick Vander Linde holds a photograph of his mother Corry

Loss: Dick Vander Linde holds a photograph of his mother Corry

Six weeks after his mother was rushed to hospital and three weeks after she died, Dick Vander Linde learned that his mother’s illness was caused by an E. coli infection.

Corry Vander Linde, 82, of Vernon, was admitted to hospital July 29 after experiencing abdominal pain and internal bleeding. She died Aug. 16.

On Sept. 13, Dick and his father John were informed that Corry had been suffering from an E. coli 0157:H7 infection linked to Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm.

Throughout this time, a wheel of cheese purchased at Gort’s remained in John’s fridge, being consumed regularly.

Dick tells his story because he would like to see improvements to the system, with information being provided sooner.

“My dad’s fridge would have been cleaned out earlier – we didn’t find out about the E. coli word until Sept. 13. That stretch of time is an incredibly long stretch of time,” he says. “As far as the system goes, the system isn’t working. I think the public deserves a better way of being looked after.”

He emphasizes that the physician and nurses taking care of his mother did a fantastic job; he has no complaint with them.

“It’s really the procedures and protocols… I shudder to think of my dad eating that cheese six weeks after my mom went into hospital.”

Another upset for him regarding health agencies was an official statement he heard, which noted  that 11 people were infected with E. coli-related illness linked to the cheese and one elderly person had passed away – but had underlying conditions.

“It kind of sounds like, she was 82 and had to die anyway. This wasn’t my experience… This lady was in very robust health. This wasn’t a person half a year from passing away,” he emphasizes.

Corry had three children, 28 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.

Dick says his mom  suffered from rheumatoid arthritis which limited her mobility, but she had no problems connected to the illness.

He explains that both his mom and dad were sick for about a week before he received a call from his dad at 3 a.m. July 29. They had first eaten the cheese about a week earlier. Until July 29 his mom seemed to have been recovering from what he thought was a flu of some sort, although she continued to complain about pain in her stomach and side.

In hospital it soon became obvious how serious her condition was, he said, with doctors eventually saying a slim hope was to remove her colon. Although she lived through the surgery, the infection continued unabated.

“What we watched was unbelievable. We learned a lot about E. coli and infections. You don’t understand what it does to a human body. It’s like a nightmare.”

One of Corry and John Vander Linde’s favourite outings was to go to Gort’s farm. Each month, after they received their cheque, they would go buy a wheel of cheese.

“They were regular customers. They loved the place, they always talked about it.”

Dick says while his family holds no grudges towards the owners of Gort’s and is not vindictive or looking for a lawsuit, he’s doesn’t think forgiveness is the right word to use at this point.

“I’m not blaming the owners of the cheese farm, I don’t believe they did this intentionally. Their intention was to put out a great product…,” he acknowledges, adding that it doesn’t negate the fact damage was done.

“When I cause damage to my neighbour’s property, I’m either going to go there and repair it or I’m going to pay somebody to repair it.”

Along with all the pain, the day Corry died was a beautifully spiritual day for her son. Dick was in the hospital when he ran into his youngest son – whose spouse had just had a baby.

“I was able to hold my 14th granddaughter two or three hours after she was born,” he explains. Then, a few hours later, “I held my mother in my arms while she left this earth.”