College Student Loses Legs Over Chicken Lo Mein

It’s a strange case involving septic shock
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2022 9:40 AM CST
College Student Loses Legs Over Chicken Lo Mein
A typical example of chicken Lo Mein.   (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

“I don’t intend to scare anyone about food or leftovers. ... This was a freak accident happening in a perfect storm sequence of events.” That is the opening statement in a recent viral video from Dr. Bernard Hsu (known as “Chubbyemu” on his YouTube channel). If not for that video, subscribers to the New England Journal of Medicine would probably be the only ones to know about the hungry but otherwise healthy college student, referred to as "JC" in the literature, who lost his legs and parts of all 10 fingers because of leftover chicken Lo Mein.

The 19-year-old patient presented at Massachusetts General Hospital back in 2020 with a host of symptoms, including such pleasantries as intense yellow-green vomit, chills, general weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath, neck stiffness, blurred vision, disturbingly low blood pressure, and unexplained rashes and bruising. Doctors were stumped as JC’s condition worsened, despite pumping him full of antibiotics and other therapeutics that would normally overcome any foodborne illness. But it wasn’t the Lo Mein’s fault, at least not entirely.

It turned out JC’s roommate, who purchased and consumed part of the dish, also felt sick after a few bites, but he did not experience a severe reaction. Why did JC suffer so much? Subsequent research into his medical history revealed that he had received the initial meningococcal vaccine at age 12, but not the recommended booster. He also got the meningococcal conjugate (MenB) vaccine, as recommended by the CDC after age 16, but—again—he never got the booster. According to doctors, that made the difference between the roommate’s relatively mild reaction and JC’s case, which led to full-blown meningococcus with septic shock and kidney failure. Today, JC has made "a relatively good recovery," per Fox News, meaning his organs regained function, but obviously he will be dealing with lifelong consequences. (More foodborne illness stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.