Jordan McNair walked out of Levine Children’s Hospital around noon on Thursday, happy for a taste of fresh air and sunshine.
The 35 days he’d spent there as an E. coli patient fighting for his life seemed like a dream. At times, he’d been on a ventilator and dialysis following kidney failure.
Jordan was one of 106 E. coli infection cases tied to the Cleveland County Fair in Shelby. Gage Lefevers, 2, of Gastonia, died from complications from the bacterial illness typically spread from animals and animal waste to humans.
State officials said preliminary findings suggested animal exposure may be the cause of the outbreak, the largest ever in North Carolina. Public health investigators from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will present their findings about the outbreak Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Cleveland County Health Department.
Jordan returned to his home near Cherryville on Thursday looking forward to riding his bicycle, shooting his BB gun and maybe later going to a Japanese steak house in Gastonia.
“I’m very excited and so thrilled,” Beth McNair said of her son’s homecoming. “And so thankful.”
Throughout the long hospital stay she was by her son’s side. Without the support of family, friends and community, “I would have crashed long ago,” she said.
“It’s amazing. Sometimes you wonder if you matter to anybody,” said McNair, 44. “Then, when it really counts you find out that you do matter.”
The family’s journey began on Sept. 30 when they went to the Cleveland County Fair.
They saw it as a “Jordan Day,” which meant the 12-year-old got to pick what he wanted to do.
That included eating corn dogs and funnel cake, riding the Ferris wheel, and going to a program of Christian music.
“Then he milked a cow,” McNair said. “And he went to the petting zoo.”
The handwashing station at the petting zoo only had a residue of soap when Jordan tried to wash his hands, she recalled.
The family didn’t eat anything else and went home after about five hours at the fair.
Jordan got sick on Oct. 3 and two days later was a patient at Levine Children’s Hospital.
“The low point was the ventilator,” McNair said. “That was a bad day. I was petrified.”
And she was horrified when Jordan was on kidney dialysis around the clock for nine days.
Thoughts of the 2-year-old E. coli victim who died weighed heavy on her.
But gradually, Jordan’s condition improved. And Thursday, he stepped out into the sunlight again.
On the way to Cherryville, his mother pointed out leaves changing colors on the trees. The landscape had changed since they’d traveled that way headed to the hospital on Oct. 5.
Jordan had time to think about going back to John Chavis Middle School in Cherryville next week. He’s still taking three kinds of medication and will have weekly lab tests.
His mom thought he seemed a “little blah” but mostly OK.
At home, Jordan’s little neighbor from next door ran over and gave him a big hug.
There was much to catch up on, but for the first few moments Jordan settled in front of the TV, trying to return to normal.
“He’s happy to be back,” McNair said. “This is a total blessing – and a celebration.”