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Family of woman critically injured after drinking tainted tea speaks

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Posted at 9:56 PM, Aug 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-15 23:56:59-04

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah -- Jim and Jan Harding have been standing side by side since August of 1968, a date that today is hard to count down to when her days could be numbered.

“A week from tomorrow will be 46 years,” said Jim Harding. “I just want to get to it and be able to celebrate it.”

Jan Harding has been in critical condition since Sunday, when she visited the Dickey’s Barbecue in South Jordan and was served a cup of sweet tea, which according to police, had been mixed in with cleaning chemicals. A former Dickey's employee spoke about how the tea may have become contaminated, click here for details.

“She took one sip, and she began coughing and gagging and choking and spitting,” Jim Harding said. “She turned to me and she said, ‘I think I just drank acid.’ What? Nobody expects that under any conditions.”

In the days since, Harding’s family hasn’t left the burn unit at the University of Utah, monitoring her condition day and night.

“Exhausted, mentally and emotionally and physically,” Harding said.

On Friday, though, they were able to breathe a small sigh of relief.

“When the breathing tube came out, we all smiled and then I think we cried,” Harding said. “And it was just, OK, I think this is an important step.”

An endoscopy done on his wife on Thursday discovered chemical burns in her esophagus, which could cause it to perforate. Doctors will wait five days before checking again to see if it has healed at all.

“When you process it, it makes you frustrated,” said Harding’s son, Scott.

While their focus is on Jan Harding’s health, they do hope to better understand how the toxic mixture ended up in her cup on Sunday.

“To know that there was potentially a known problem that wasn’t resolved, and then to have it affect somebody, an innocent person, and have it be life threatening, is extremely frustrating,” said Scott Harding.

Jim Harding is hoping the event, as horrific as it was for them, will serve as a lesson to others working in the restaurant industry.

“Our hope, one of our hopes, is that something good can come out of something tragic,” Harding said, “If they can become even more attentive, even more careful, and even more aware of the potential danger, if something good can come out of something so tragic, then this [interview] is worth doing.”

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