By Wendy Culverwell and Annette Cary
Herald staff writers
No new cases of E. coli poisoning were reported in Finley schoolchildren late in the week, and three of the six children who were still hospitalized were allowed to return home.
However, Al Almquist, the father of the only Finley child still hospitalized in Seattle, said his son is still suffering.
“He’s really, really sick,” Almquist said.
“People need to understand that E. coli is more than just bloody diarrhea. It is a systemic toxin that leaves livers swollen and sends young bodies into violent tremors.”
His son, A.J., 10, is listed in satisfactory condition by officials at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle. He’s one of 11 Finley Elementary School children infected with E. coli bacteria, possibly from a school lunch served Oct. 6 or 8.
A.J.’s illness began Oct. 10, the father said. He felt sick through that weekend and Monday, but felt well enough to go to school Tuesday. By Wednesday, he was sick again. Thursday, Oct. 15, he was at Kennewick General Hospital, and a few days later, an ambulance took him to Seattle, where the up and down cycle continued.
“He got so sick it was just unreal,” Almquist said, describing crimson blood in the toilet, violent headaches and days of vomiting. The boy, who saved his money to buy a motorcycle to race in the backyard, pleaded with his parents to put him out of his misery. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Almquist said.
Almquist said he and his wife, Gerri, have a motel room near the hospital, but haven’t spent much time there. Mostly, they’ve been by A.J.’s bedside.
They don’t know if A.J. will suffer long-term consequences and for now, they’re not worrying about the cost, which includes taking unpaid time away from his job as an electrician at Fluor Daniel.
The family has medical insurance, but Almquist said he doesn’t expect that to cover all their expenses. At the moment, they’re using the money they saved to purchase a home. The house will have to wait, he said.
“That’s got to be off the table.”
The school’s parents group has offered its help to families with sick children, volunteering to baby-sit siblings or care for animals while parents are away with children in the hospital. Parents also have set up accounts at Keybank in Kennewick to accept donations for the 11 families.
The other two children still hospitalized Friday were at Kennewick General Hospital. Health officials have said children have been hospitalized as a precaution against dehydration, which can lead to kidney damage.
Rob Van Slyke, superintendent of the Finley School District said he wants to help families with expenses caused by the outbreak but has been frustrated by laws governing how public money can be spent.