Durban - Twenty-six-year-old Lisa Moodley* found she was pregnant in May last year and, although surprised, was elated.
She craved cold meats and very dry foods during her pregnancy.
“I consumed a lot of hot dogs, cheese-and-polony toasted sandwiches; I would chop the viennas or polony and have it with sauce, or on a home-made pizza. And it was always a brand that we would buy on our grocery list, because those were easy lunch meals,” she said.
She gave birth by emergency Caesarean section in November, but her baby died after just a few days.
Moodley is one of the claimants in the class action suit being brought on behalf of the families of the more than 180 people who died, and survivors.
The action is being led by attorney Richard Spoor, who has partnered with US firm Marler Clark, and will engage the services of other experts in the field as they prepare to bring class action proceedings against Tiger Brands.
The source of the outbreak was traced to Tiger Brands’ Enterprise factory, in Polokwane. This and their Germiston factory were closed down, and their products recalled.
Earlier this month, Tiger Brands chief executive Lawrence MacDougall said there was no direct link between the deaths and their products.
Moodley said she had joined the class action because she wanted her daughter’s death to mean something.
“I want awareness to be raised about this crisis, of such magnitude for all families. I lost birthdays, moments we could have had; a first tooth, walking, riding a bike, school If her story can help, then I will do it, because those families deserve justice, and I would have wanted someone to tell me what to look out for when I was pregnant. Sadly, I did not fathom how it could have been the one thing we live on - food.”
She first noticed something was wrong when her baby’s movements waned.
Her concerns were allayed by her gynaecologist, but two days later she started shivering vigorously. She had a temperature and was sweating, but was also cold.
Again this was brushed off, this time as Braxton Hicks contractions. However, as her symptoms intensified, she was rushed to hospital.
“They examined me and realised I was definitely in pre-term labour. When attempts to stop the delivery failed, and the baby’s heart rate dropped, it was decided that she would undergo an emergency Caesarean section.
“As they wheeled me into theatre, I had been in such pain and I was so scared, all I kept thinking was that my fiancé wasn’t there, my parents were not there, and I was all alone, but I needed to be strong for her. I kept thinking that I needed to suck it up and be brave because I was about to meet our little princess.
“I felt nothing, everything around me was spinning and I just kept asking everyone in the room, is everything okay? Is she okay? And they said she was out, I didn’t hear her cry like I’d expected her to, they didn’t bring her to me like I’d pictured. I was just numb, and slowly blacking out.”
When she came to, she was told her baby was in ICU and breathing through a tube.
“She was perfect, she had thick black hair, rosy cheeks, red lips and weighed 1.9kg. She looked just like her dad. More like an angel.”
Later she learned that her baby had an infection that needed such strong medication there was a chance it would cause brain damage.
However, the baby’s condition deteriorated until she was brain dead and on life support.
“My fiancé and I had to make the worst decision of our lives, of whether to take her off life support. At that point I felt that I had failed her; I couldn’t do anything to protect her.”
She was told her baby had had listeriosis.
Moodley said she was “ focused on getting better and recovering from this virus that my baby had to take - to save my life. Nobody realises the guilt that one feels.”
Although she cries every day for her daughter, the support of family, friends and her church, as well as counselling, was helping her remember her daughter, Summer, with a smile.
Spoor recently said on Twitter that his team had finished drafting the class action papers, and was busy obtaining affidavits from the class action representatives and experts.
* Not her real name