This Isn’t just Data, They are People

Throughout this semester, I have noticed so many different connections between the different books we read, but after I listened to Ben Chapman’s podcast, I forgot about all of the information regarding it. I let it go to the back of my mind until recently, I relistened to the podcast Food Safety Talk Podcast Episode 163 and found so much new information that I did not catch the first time I listened to it. One connection that really stuck out to me was between the salmonella case, and Alice Achitophel from Zulus.

When I listened to Ben Chapman’s podcast, I found the story about the lady’s son who got sick from salmonella particularly interesting. Her son was in his twenties when he got sick. Her son was dealing with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and he didn’t get better right away. After about a week he got better, but then he started experiencing back and sciatic issues. He went to the hospital and stayed there for three days, during that time he was getting MRI’s done and had a needle put directly into the part of his back that was hurting. This resulted in the doctors finding he had salmonella and the infection was mainly around his spine. The salmonella had migrated from his gut to other parts of his body, so while in the hospital he was treated for sepsis. The man’s mother wanted to find out more about salmonella and see if he was part of an outbreak. She contacted Ben Chapman asked him what steps she could take to figure out if he was part of an outbreak. Chapman told her to follow up with local public health and the state health lab and ask if any of it was uploaded to Pulsenet and if there were any matches and where the matches were. The primary health provider hadn’t received anything back and was still waiting for a call back. After the primary health provider still hadn’t gotten a call back, the mother had looked on Pulsent herself but did not find anything. When the mother called Chapman and told him she couldn’t find anything Chapman thought “Of course not…it’s not there.” Chapman met with a food safety public health epidemiologist who had told him as soon as they link a bunch of things together and find the food type, they are out and not interested in going back and working with those patients or the food industry to figure out what had caused it. Chapman had said that no one takes the next steps of letting people know that they are a part of this, this can provide answers or closure. Also, doing something about it to move backwards to figure out what the root causes were, source attribution, and the contributing factors. These are steps that need to be taken to head in the right direction. The food safety public health epidemiologists seem to forget that the data they receive is a human being. The person probably wants to know the reason they got the infection and learn more about it. The mother of the man who had salmonella was unable to find anything out about the salmonella her son had been infected with. The need for speed to get the data seems to be more important than the person involved. The food safety public health epidemiologist said that after they find the information they need, they are done. What about the people connected to the data? They want answers regarding the infection and unless they know someone from the inside, they are left in the dark. It seemed that the need for data was more important than the people involved, even though it is someone’s life.

As I listened to Ben Chapman tell us about the data it made me think of Zulus,with Alice Achitophel. Once Alice got to the camp, no one seemed to care about Alice, all they cared about was her baby. Alice was treated so poorly by the people at the camp, one person who stuck out to me was Body-woman Rima. Body-woman Rima was focused on the baby and didn’t care about Alice. “We’d best be careful, it might be harmful for us to breathe it in for too long a time(Everett,90).” Body-woman Rima was examining Alice to see if she actually was pregnant, she did not care about Alice’s feelings and spoke out about Alice’s stench to the point Alice was holding back tears. Once the camp received the information they needed, just like the food safety public health epidemiologist, they were done. Body-woman Rima did not seem to care about Alice and just worked fast to get the data she needed, just like the need for speed to get data, not caring about the people involved. Alice was tossed aside and forgotten, just like other important questions regarding the root of the infection, source attribution, and contributing factors in the food industry. “Alice Achitophel looked at the white walls, bare and clean and without windows(Everett,102).” Alice was taken to this plain room and was told it was a guest room, when in reality it was a room to trap Alice so she would not leave the camp. If they had treated Alice right from the beginning, then maybe ALice wouldn’t want to leave and they wouldn’t have to trap her to keep her there, but the people at the camp do not care about Alice, they just want her child. “And here, what will they do for me here? Probe me to death? Plow and harvest me like a field? And what after all this I give birth to a dead thing? Will I be dropped, left to starve somewhere in the territory(Everett,103)?” This also reminded me a lot of the salmonella case with Ben Chapman, Alice would be used to gather data, no one seemed to realize that she was a human-being. Once they got the data they needed from Alice, or the child, they would be done with her just like the food safety public health epidemiologist explained how once they link a bunch of things together, they are done and not interested anymore. The camp would not be interested in Alice anymore and would not care what would happen to her after she had her child.

As I listened to Ben Chapman’s podcast and about the man who had salmonella, I felt bad for the man. His data was used but he did not get the closure he deserved, he did not get answers to his questions because, like Alice, once they got the data they needed, he was forgotten and tossed to the side. Alice’s data was her child, once the camp had that, she would also be forgotten.

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