If the serving you get for a meal is too big, it’s nice to be able to have leftovers that can be used for a lunch or a dinner later in the week, however, it was anything but nice for one teen who ate leftover Chinese food and wound up needing to have his finger and legs amputated because of it.
His story was written about in the New England Journal of Medicine, which explained how the 19-year-old had some leftover lo mein and chicken. Everything was fine until about 20 hours after he ate the meal, at which point he suffered from severe stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. Things worsened from there – he got chills, muscle aches, neck stiffness, blurry vision, weakness and had trouble breathing. He also had purple patches on his face, chest, abdomen, arms and legs. His friend, who also had some of the lo mein and threw up but didn’t get nearly as sick, took him to the hospital.
At the ER, the teen’s blood pressure dropped and his shortness of breath worsened. He was put on a ventilator and sent by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was treated for multiple organ failure. A series of tests determined he had contracted a bacterial infection from eating the food. The bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis, made it to his blood stream and caused something called purpura fulminas, or blood clots throughout the body which can block circulation, killing tissue and causing skin to look purple. If untreated, it blocks blood flow to organs and can be fatal.
Because of how much the infection had progressed, doctors needed to amputate the teen’s legs below his knees and remove a finger. However, his life was saved and he is recovering from the experience. The journal failed to mention just how old the lo mein was.
Keep in mind, what happened to him is extremely rare, but when it comes to leftovers, only use clean containers and get them in the fridge or freezer quickly – within two hours of when the food inside them was cooked. Also, don’t eat any leftovers that have been in your fridge for more than three or four days, or in your freezer for more than three or four months. Finally, if anyone tells you “the nose knows” when it comes to if food is okay to eat, they are absolutely wrong – food can smell fine but still be covered in dangerous bacteria.