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ST. LOUIS – Eighteen-year-old Stephanie Ingberg almost died last month when she got E. Coli from eating contaminated romaine lettuce.

Ingberg ate a salad at a St. Louis Bread Company location two days before leaving on her senior spring break trip to the Dominican Republic. Her parents are certain she ate the contaminated food before leaving on her trip because her symptoms began to appear shortly after the meal.

The Parkway West student thought her stomach problems were no big deal, so she went on her trip. Once she and her mother arrived in Punta Cana, her symptoms turned much more serious.

Doctors sent her to the hospital in Punta Cana where they gave her antibiotics for food poisoning. Turns out E. Coli thrives on antibiotics and Stephanie’s kidneys began to fail.

Doctors at St. Luke’s Hospital arranged for a medical flight to evacuate Ingberg and bring her back to St. Louis. Doctors felt certain she had only hours to live if she didn’t leave the country.

Ingberg was diagnosed with E. Coli when she arrived at St. Luke’s. It had turned into HUS, which is fatal. The specific type of E. Coli produced a toxin that attacks your red blood cells and these dead blood cells block the filtering system of your kidneys. This isn’t the type of E. Coli that comes from eating undercooked red meat.

Doctors performed an emergency hemodialysis. If they had waited even a few hours longer, Ingberg may not have lived. She also suffered some brain stem damage.

Ingberg was in the hospital for three weeks but has miraculously recovered. She had to learn to walk again and will soon be off dialysis. She plans to go to prom and college in the fall to study nursing.