1st Post About Defeating a Killer: E. Coli 0157:H7

I’m pleased to announce that progress continues with the development of an environmental education park at E. coli-contaminated Sinking Creek.  Movement toward a substantial funding may be imminent, and the municipality of Johnson City, Tennessee is moving forward with planning.  For those of you arriving here for the first time, the following paragraphs explain why so much action occurs around Jacob Francisco.

One day in the spring of 2004, Jacob was in his booster seat behind his mother driving when he unexpectedly told her that he would be famous one day.  As Jacob was an extraordinary soccer player at 6 years old, she asked him if he was going to be a famous soccer player.  He replied, “No.”  Being such a well-spoken, kind, and handsome six year old, she naturally asked him if he would be President of the United States.  He replied, “I don’t know why I’m going to be famous, but I’ll be on the covers of magazines.”

Jacob spent Father’s Day 2004 with severe stomach cramps in the bathroom after having visited his pediatrician the day before with bloody stool and suspected E.coli bacteria contamination.  On Monday, his doctor confirmed the E. coli 0157:H7 contamination, and told his parents that he appeared more hydrated than Saturday.  His parents were encouraged to continue hydration and sent home for comfort.  Jacob was hospitalized the next day, and died on June 29, 2004.  We’ve since learned that Jacob should have been immediately hospitalized for hydration and quarantine — a guilt that we live with forever.

The non-profit food safety advocate, Stop Foodborne Illness f/k/a Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) has been a comforting resource for Jacob’s family and friends since 2004.  Because of STOP, I took Jacob’s story to the halls of the U.S. Senate in order to convince certain U.S. Senators the importance of passing the Food Safety Modernization Act.  Senator Lamar Alexander asked if he could take the 81/2 x 11 photo of Jacob that I showed him, and I believe Jacob was influential.  The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in January, 2011.

During the past seven years, Jacob’s family, friends, and the Johnson City community have raised over $50,000 for a medical lectureship at the East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine to teach recognition and treatment of symptoms of E. coli contamination and possible prevention.  With a well-funded medical lectureship, Jacob’s family has joined with the Boone Watershed Partnership to target awareness about the danger of E. coli bacteria in Sinking Creek in Johnson City, Tennessee and to restore the stream to healthy status.

Jacob and his younger brother often waded in Sinking Creek that flows behind their home catching crayfish and minnows and throwing stones.  Sinking Creek was not suspected as the source of Jacob’s contamination.  Jacob’s family has since learned that Sinking Creek has been listed as one of the dangerously impaired streams in Tennessee.  The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation has posted warnings along downstream portions of the stream to warn of dangerous contact with the E. coli-contaminated water.

The Boone Watershed Partnership (BWP) is a 501(c)(3) organization that has been a leader in preserving water quality in east Tennessee for many years.  In 2008, it received a $500,000 match grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for the restoration of Sinking Creek by reducing the E. coli bacteria in the stream.  The City of Johnson City and East Tennessee State University have been vital partners for identifying antiquated septic tanks and agricultural run-off along Sinking Creek.  This partnership, and hopefully additional new partners for the development of an environmental education park at Sinking Creek wetlands, will create a community-wide, clean-stream conscience.  Tax deductible contributions can be made to Boone Watershed Partnership-Sinking Creek Restoration Project, and sent to Matt Drake, Treasurer, 578 Beaver Creek Rd., Bluff City, TN 37618.

Although we would rather Jacob still be with us contemplating his future fame, the reality is that we are left to create it for him.  By raising awareness of the danger of certain E. coli bacteria that exist in our food and water, Jacob will prevent another tragedy; and, will be famous for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: