Books by Mary Heersink

Released: July 1, 1996

A mother's emotion-laden and detail-rich account of a battle waged not by her but by her son's body against toxins from a deadly pathogen. In February 1992, while on a Boy Scout outing, Heersink's eleven-year-old son, Damion, ate a hamburger tainted with the microbe E. coli 0157. Heersink, now a food safety activist and spokesperson for Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.), but then unaware of the seriousness of her son's stomach complaints, drove him from their home in Alabama to Florida to begin camp. When his condition worsened en route, she took him to the emergency room at a small hospital, from which he was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit at Tampa's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. He remained there until early April, undergoing seven surgical procedures as the toxins in his body savaged, in turn, his kidneys, intestines, lungs, heart, and then intestines again. Throughout, Heersink lived in the hospital, accompanied most of the time by her physician husband, who marshalled specialists, collaborated with his son's doctors, and monitored him closely. Heersink's reconstructed day-by-day journal chronicling Damion's brief ups and perilous downs generally rings true, but some conversations seem to have been recalled faultily: Words presented as those of a worried mother—''Not only has the fluid reaccumulated to the same degree within his pericardial membrane, but the stress of this fluid is now beginning to negatively impact on his heart function''—sound more like a doctor's explanation. While the main story is Damion's battle, a secondary theme is Heersink's evolution from blind faith in the curative powers of medicine to recognition of its limitations. A sketchy summary of S.T.O.P.'s efforts to improve food safety conclude the text. Stirring medical melodrama with a serious purpose. (Author tour; TV and radio satellite tour) Read full book review >