Woman who drank ‘toxic tea’ speaks about recovery

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS -- The woman who drank a sweet tea that had been laced with a cleaning chemical is speaking about her experience, thanking people from all over the nation who prayed for her recovery.

"I could not have made it without all the prayers of America," Jan Harding said Friday.

Harding was at a Dickey's Barbecue restaurant in South Jordan earlier this month, when she took a sip of sweet tea. She said she knew immediately that something was wrong.

"I filled it and took a sip and immediately my whole mouth was just on fire," she told reporters.

Authorities said they believe an employee had mixed the cleaning chemical sodium hydroxide into sugar, which found its way into the sweet tea.

"It was a fire beyond anything you can imagine, worse than drinking hot coffee or something with hot spices," Harding said. "It was a fire that was just it was just all consuming in my mouth, everywhere in my mouth, my tongue, the roof of my mouth, the insides of my cheeks, everywhere."

Harding's family rushed her to a Riverton hospital, where doctors inserted a breathing tube in her throat. She said that was the last thing she remembered for six days. For a time, Harding said she did not believe she was going to survive.

"I asked God if I wasn't going to make it through this, if He would send an angel to help me with the journey because it was so hard," she told FOX 13. "I never saw an angel, I never saw a bright light. I knew, I knew I would be OK."

Harding was released from the hospital on her 46th wedding anniversary. She said she celebrated with her husband, Jim, by eating some "bland food" and dancing in her living room.

After being released from the hospital last Saturday, Harding said she still has medical care. Doctors will scope her throat next week to see how she is recovering. The perforations in her throat have healed, but she may still have scarring.

"I don't feel quite myself yet," she said. "My head has been kind of fuzzy, but I'm feeling better every day."

If the toxic tea had hit her stomach, she said doctors told her she would have likely died.

"I'm in very good care with some very good doctors," she said.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told FOX 13 on Friday he met with South Jordan police to screen the case for possible criminal charges, but he wanted more follow-up. A final decision could come next week.

The Salt Lake County Health Department said it initially responded after South Jordan police were called, but did not close the restaurant because police had seized the cleaning chemical and there was no longer an "imminent threat."

Harding's lawyer told FOX 13 that no lawsuit had been filed yet because he was going to see if they could reach a resolution short of litigation.

Harding said she is not mad at anyone over what happened.

"It's not in my nature to be vengeful," she said.

However, she did want to see steps taken to ensure it would not happen to anyone else, ever again.

"We're hoping that the restaurant industry will make changes in how they train their employees, how they store their chemicals, where they store them, how they label them," Harding said. "Put some dye or coloring in things that are not to be ingested. We're hoping in the days ahead, we'll see them become proactive because of this."

Related stories:

Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants issues statement after tainted tea injures woman

Family of woman critically injured after drinking tainted tea speaks

Woman who drank toxic tea has burns worse than expected, remains in critical condition

Family’s attorney speaks as woman who drank tainted tea remains in critical condition

Experts discuss dangers of chemical that left woman in critical condition

17 comments

  • goodwithoutgod

    Right. It was god and prayers that helped save her life and speed her recovery. No thanks to the emergency personnel who transported her, the doctors and nurses who treated her, or the medical technology that helped heal her. It was all just the magic of prayer… I’m glad she is recovering, but her attribution of the reasons is pretty pathetic.

  • ShakingHead

    I bet the medics sure feel proud of their hard work to save her after reading her statements. I don’t understand people that put so much into faith. I don’t understand god anyway. Why does he allow kids to get cancer but older people can recover from almost being killed?

    • dave

      i dont remember her mentioning the medics ether but that dosnt mean she didnt believe they had anything to do with it. we have no reason to believe that she is stupid. it may have been good for her to have mentioned the medics but she knows they did there job

      although i can respect that you claim not to understand god (thats ok there are many people who dont i used to be one of them) but theres countless people who dont understand electricity, and although there are people who do understand some things about electricity just like people who understand some things about god. weather or not you understand why praying works or how electrons can turn the week nuclear force into kinetic energy ether way they work regardless if you do or dont have a in depth knowledge and weather or not you believe in them.

      weather you flip the switch and get light or hit your knees with a sincere (id like to put some emphasis on sincere its a requirement) desire to know ether way you get a result

  • bob

    As an atheist myself, I’m mystified by what value you haters place on belittling the beliefs of others. Does it make you feel smarter? Do you think others will believe you’re smarter? Please…..and I say this from the heart…..S T F U.

    I don’t get it. I DON’T CARE what she believes, or why, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that she says it out loud. I’m just glad she’s OK. If she believes Jesus did it, more power to her. That causes absolutely no harm to me.

    I do think it’s hilarious that so many haters assumed she’s LDS. She’s not.

  • John

    Let that be a lesson to all you non believers. Do not waste your money and deductibles on medical care, pray harder and get merica to pray hard for you too. Stupid Obama care anyway. “SaviorCare” is free. Although its track record is not so good but hey, praise Jesus and be healed. AMEN!

  • Tara

    Most places in the South give out sugar packets instead of sweetening the mix. I only say this because I don’t think the company hasn’t learned its lesson, with mixing up the sugar and cleaning chemical. Especially since an employee was sickened the same way, a couple of weeks before this happened. At least if they are going to keep operating they could remove all doubt and just not use open sugar anywhere in their cooking…just a thought…

    • bob

      I don’t believe that disgruntled former employee’s story for a second. The idea that she mixed the stuff, and nobody ordered sweet tea for WEEKS afterward, is absurd.

  • Olivia Evans

    Glory to God !! Sorry this happen to you my heart is with u but ma’am you didn’t need to see a angel are a bright light you still here proves grace & mercy was unto you take care God, loves you an so do I !!!🙌🙏

    • bob

      LOL! Everyone’s favorite Bitter Exmo and perennial fringe candidate! Long time no laugh! Still tilting at windmills, Ed?

      That’s OK. We all need comic relief.

  • sk911

    I’m so relieved to read this story! I thought for sure she wouldn’t make it. I don’t think she is LDS, not that that matters, but she is clearly grateful for the support she received in prayers, emergency respondents and her skilled doctors.
    Good for her! So glad she is ok!!

  • hightek

    This reminds me of a story out of the Midwest somewhere. Some guy was in an accident and was rushed to the hospital. Doctors tried all the standard procedures to save the guys life, and they all failed. Near death, one doctor tried something that had never been tried before, saving the guys life. The guy thanked his god for being saved, then sued the doctor for performing an untested, experimental treatment on him.

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