An 11-year-old girl who was left fighting for her life with E. coli has won damages from the petting farm where she contracted the potentially lethal infection.
Claudia Erskine, of Christ’s Hospital, fell critically ill days after visiting Godstone Farm, Surrey, in August 2009.
She was one of 76 children under the age of ten who became ill after they contracted E. coli at the farm.
Last week the ten children who were worst affected by the outbreak settled their damages claims. Now the Erskine family has told of its ‘darkest period’ in a bid to warn parents of the dangers of the life-threatening bacteria.
“It seemed impossible to us that our little girl, who had been happy and healthy just a few days before, was lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life,” said Claudia’s mother Lucy, 39.
Claudia, aged seven at the time, was rushed to East Surrey Hospital before she was transferred to Evelina Children’s Hospital where she was fed through a tube, required three blood transfusions and underwent surgery in preparation for dialysis to combat kidney failure.
Mother of three Mrs Erskine continued: “She was terrified and traumatised despite the care and kindness of the staff at the hospital.
“After three long weeks at the Evelina Children’s Hospital, a miracle happened and Claudia began to recover. At the beginning of October 2009, we were able to do something that seemed so unlikely a few weeks earlier – we were able to take our little girl home. There hasn’t been a day gone by since when we haven’t realised how blessed we are that she is still with us.”
Current advice from the Health and Safety Executive about E.coli states: “A number of outbreaks involving children have been associated with educational and recreational visits to open farms.
“While the hazard from infection resulting from a farm visit is real the risks are readily controlled by simple everyday measures. Primary amongst these is the need for good personal hygiene.”
Mrs Erskine spoke to the County Times to highlight her family’s experience and said she believed washing hands was simply not enough.
“E. coli presents a very clear and present danger to health,” she said.
She added: “As our experience has proven, what appears to be a nice family day out to a farm can result in devastating consequences.”
Lawyers Field Fisher Waterhouse said the settlements in respect of the 35 victims they represented to date were in excess of £1million.
The farm had previously been ruled as wholly liable for the outbreak. The awards, which will be paid by the farm’s insurers, are provisional, meaning the children can return to court for further compensation in future if their conditions deteriorate.
For advice on keeping safe from E. coli while visiting or working on a farm, go to: www.hse.gov.uk/campaigns/farmsafe/ecoli.htm