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Expensive lunch

Expensive lunch Expensive lunch

Brian Wilson

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

I was reminded of this last week when we received the invoice for an emergency room visit following a fast food pit-stop we made a few weeks ago. The invoice listed more than $3,500 in expenses from the various doctors, nurses, medications and apparently just for simply exiting at the emergency room.

The story starts several months ago. We were in need of a vehicle for my son Alex to get to and from school and work.

The main criteria were for it is to be cheap, reliable and did I mention cheap.

As anyone who has purchased used cars knows, you often get exactly what you pay for, which would make the idea of finding a decent car that a high schooler could pay for through the earnings from their summer job almost as likely as winning the Powerball jackpot.

It appeared we may have lucked into a good deal when my daughter’s best friend’s father found he had more cars than he needed — or rather more cars than his wife felt he needed. The friend in question, Caiti, knew that Alex needed some cheap wheels and so on a sunny spring Saturday morning, my daughter, son and I were on our way to Reedsburg to see a guy about a cheap car.

I drove the newly purchased car home with Alex and Beth driving my car. The plan was stop in the Stevens Point area for lunch. During her time at UW-Stevens Point my daughter developed a fondness for Qdoba, a Mexican-themed fast food place whose gimmick is to have customers tell the workers what meat, veggies and sauces they want.

Beth’s summer job is working as the head cook at a Girl Scout camp. As a result she has had to take numerous trainings and certifications on things like safe food handling and the risk of cross contamination, especially with potentially life-threatening food allergies being fairly common.

Shellfish allergies run in my wife’s family. Living 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean, we never found it to be a hardship to avoid shrimp or lobster.

What we didn’t realize is that Qdoba had recently added shrimp to the other protein options on their menu. This shouldn’t have been an issue either, had workers and managers been following the protocols for dealing with potential allergens and cross contamination.

Everything appeared normal as we ate our food and then headed toward home.

It was between Stevens Point and Wausau that Beth began to feel her throat get tight and breathing begin to get difficult. Alex took over driving as they stopped at a gas station to get Benadryl as first aid.

Alex ended up taking Beth to the emergency room in Wausau where she spent several hours getting IVs of medication to treat the allergic reaction. She was sent home later that night with a prescription for an epipen and warnings to avoid even being near seafood.

Beth knew she got lucky. Her reaction could have been far worse. She reached out to the restaurant both at the local level and corporate to let them know what happened and to emphasize the importance of being aware of the risks of cross contamination.

A corporate representative emailed back with a coupon for a free meal the next time Beth stops in.

I am guessing that coupon won’t be getting used for a long time to come.

If there is any life lesson to be learned from all of this, it is to always be cautious when a restaurant decides to add seafood to their long-established menu.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.