NEWS
05/04/2018 05:19 SAST | Updated 06/04/2018 14:50 SAST

'Listeriosis Killed Our Unborn Babies' – Couples Reveal Their Torment

"My husband and I have one child; we were excited about bringing a second child into the world."

ozgurdonmaz via Getty Images

Harrowing tales by Gauteng women who were suffering from listeriosis – of miscarriages, stillbirths and the loss of young infants – form part of the evidence to be presented in the impending class-action suit against Enterprise Foods, owned by Tiger Brands.

Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys filed the class-action suit in the High Court in Johannesburg last month, seeking compensation for the damage caused by contaminated Enterprise products on behalf of victims of the deadly outbreak.

HuffPost is in possession of the court documents containing affidavits of the pain and suffering the applicants had to endure after they were diagnosed with the disease.

Many were pregnant women who lost their unborn babies because of the outbreak.

One complainant described how she suffered a miscarriage while 16 weeks pregnant.

"My husband and I have one child; we were excited about bringing a second child into the world," she said.

She and her spouse bought Enterprise ready-to-eat products in bulk from the company's Germiston factory. After suffering from cramps and exhaustion, she finally went to hospital – where she was admitted, and doctors told her she had contracted listeriosis.

She started experiencing even more pain and felt pressure on her bladder – which she assumed was because she had urinated on herself. As she stood up to go to the bathroom, it felt as though the baby was falling out of her.

"I started screaming and crying, because I was very confused and scared," she said.

The baby "rolled out" of her, underneath the adjacent bed. The patient in that bed then pressed the panic button to get assistance.

The grieving mother is still traumatised.

"My husband and I have not been assessed by a professional for any psychological effect of losing our child in the manner that we did. I still get very scared every time I think about how the miscarriage happened."

"During this period I stood largely on the sidelines in utter horror, as the fate of my wife and unborn children hung in the balance. I felt helpless as a qualified medical practitioner."

Another women says she gave birth to a healthy child last year, but soon that changed.

"She [the child] had a fever and diarrhoea followed by violent convulsions," the mother of three stated in her affidavit. The child was eventually diagnosed with listeriosis.

The child has since been in and out of hospital, and medical bills now stand at R100,000.

"My daughter's illness has been very traumatic and distressing for me – it has been terrible seeing her so sick, and we are very concerned for her health and her future," she said.

She wants to resign from her job in order to look after her daughter, but she cannot afford to.

Read: Listeriosis: Here Are The Shocking Numbers

Another complainant, also diagnosed with the deadly disease, says she has been experiencing panic attacks since the loss of her baby.

It was her first pregnancy, and she was 23 weeks along when she realised there was no movement in her womb. She started experiencing pain and went to the hospital – where she found that the baby's heart rate had dropped.

She went into labour, but once she gave birth, the child did not cry.

The severely premature newborn was rushed to the intensive care unit (ICU), but she and her partner later decided to take the baby off life support, and it passed away.

A man staying in KwaZulu- Natal recounts how his wife experienced complications 27 weeks into her pregnancy.

The couple had been trying to have children for a long time, and eventually used assisted reproductive technology, which resulted in his wife falling pregnant on the fifth attempt with medical assistance.

"We were delighted by the news that we were expecting twins," he said.

His wife craved chicken polony regularly, which she consumed in large quantities.

She contracted listeriosis and when she gave birth to her twins, one was a stillborn.

"During this period I stood largely on the sidelines in utter horror, as the fate of my wife and unborn children hung in the balance. I felt helpless as a qualified medical practitioner," the man said.

The surviving child is in continuous ICU treatment and might have permanent disabilities, including blindness, deafness and cognitive disabilities.

Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys said the first court hearing date might be set in the next three months, to allow time for Tiger Brands to respond and prepare their answering documents.

The South Africa listeriosis outbreak, caused by food contaminated with the bacteria listeria, has killed 189 people, latest reports indicate. It is the largest listeriosis outbreak ever recorded globally, according to the World Health Organisation.

The first recorded case of listeria was reported last year, and the disease has since affected hundreds of South Africans. At least 982 cases have been confirmed.